On his first day of school at Gemini Junior High, DJ Irizarry’s music appreciation teacher asked her students to bring in old keyboards they had at home and weren’t using anymore, with their parent’s permission. Phyllis Achille said there weren’t enough in the classroom to go around, and she had been going to thrift stores or garage sales, trying to track them down.
DJ, who is 12 years old and lives in Glenview, wanted to know whether she was spending her own money. When she said yes, he immediately wanted to help. He went home that day and told his mother they had to buy a keyboard for Miss Achille.
Through DJ’s efforts, what began as a request to buy one keyboard has inspired a surprise donation of keyboards to Achille’s classroom from Glenview State Bank, as well as $500 in community donations.
“I wanted to raise money for her because I thought it wasn’t fair that she was taking money out of her own paycheck,” says DJ.
At First, DJ Felt 'Too Little to Help'
When DJ told his mother he wanted to buy a keyboard after his first day of school, she asked if he thought that would make the impact Achille needed.
“He said, ‘Can we buy more?’” recalls Marilyn Irizarry. DJ asked his mother to put out a request for keyboard donations on her Facebook page, but few people responded.
“Every day for a week he would come home and check his Facebook page,” says Marilyn. “One day he was like, ‘Mom, I’m too little to make a difference.”
The next day, while DJ was at school, Marilyn did a Google search for “ways to fundraise online.” The website GoFundMe was the first thing that came up, so Marilyn took a photo of DJ holding a sign that said “Help Miss Achille!” and set up a donation page there. She e-mailed the link to every principal in District 63, and Glenview Patch posted a story about DJ’s cause.
Glenview State Bank vice president David Kreiman found out about the need for keyboards after he read the story on Patch. He was motivated by DJ’s passion for helping his teacher.
“It was the fact that it was a young man, a junior high kid that wanted to do something nice for his teacher,” Kreiman said. “That in itself appealed to me.”
Glenview State Bank VP Was Impressed By DJ's Passion to Help
So Kreiman reached out to Patch, wanting to get in touch with DJ. Specifically, he wanted to meet the seventh-grader in person.
“When I was a kid, we had to go face to face, door to door [to raise money],” Kreiman explained. “I wanted to find out from him.”
For his meeting with Kreiman, DJ combed his hair to the side and put on a three-piece suit.
“He said, ‘Mom, I’m meeting with a banker, and I do not want to show up in jeans in a t-shirt,” recalls Marilyn. “He said, ‘I want to be taken seriously.’”
Kreiman was impressed not just by DJ’s seriousness but also the way he spoke about his effort to raise money. He recalls that DJ was confident, relaxed and met his eye when he spoke.
“Having that 15 to 20 minutes to really get impressed by a young man who will grow up and make a difference in the world” made him want to help, he says.
Through Glenview State Bank, Kreiman has ordered keyboards for Achille, and will make a surprise donation to her classroom next week.
“When I told her, she was more than happy, she really reacted in such a nice way,” recalls DJ. “She was telling me how good of a thing this is to be doing.”
With the money DJ raised on GoFundMe, Achille has purchased two new keyboards and ten headsets, which DJ and his fellow students are already using.
“Because of the ten headphones, it is dead silent in the classroom, and she likes that,” DJ says.
Asked whether he still feels too little to help, DJ has a different answer.
“Not really,” he says. “I made it in the Glenview Patch and I’ve spoken with the vice president of Glenview State Bank.”