Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter
It did not take long for Michayla Baker to replace her busted cello.
The 9-year-old from Danville, N.H., whose mother is fighting leukemia, has received a brand new one, courtesy of a Facebook group that pooled donations to purchase her a replacement, her father, Ken, said today.
Michayla had been playing her cello in the oncology unit of the Dana Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center for patients and hospital staff, who found the girl's impromptu performances to be a pleasant distraction from the trials of a cancer ward. A Globe reporter was interviewing the family one day last month when the instrument fell and broke.
Dozens of readers wrote the paper asking how to help the family. Michayla's mother, Angela Hills, was forced to quit her job when she was diagnosed in February, and her father has been out of work since 2008.
Many readers sent checks directly to the family. The town of Danville began a collection of its own.
And one reader, Dan Sullivan of Boston, started a Facebook site,www.facebook.com/acelloformichayla, which began collecting donations for a new instrument.
"It just seemed like there were a ton of people and everybody wanted to help, and I just figured I am going to be the one who took the first step," Sullivan, who founded a start-up that builds applications for iPods, said today. "Everybody sort of jumped in."
Sullivan purchased the cello online; the dealer, he said, upgraded the order to a more expensive instrument, free of charge, when Sullivan told him Michayla's story. All donations that came in after the cello was paid for, Sullivan said, have gone straight to the family.
The cello came with "all the bells and whistles," Baker said, including an electronic tuner, a soft case with straps, a hard case, a stand, extra strings, and rosin for the bow.
Baker said a number of people have sent him offers to buy a new cello; many others have sent cards and checks.
"We've been inundated with responses," he said. "it's a good feeling."
The new instrument is a half cello and is larger than the quarter cello Michayla had been playing; the proprietor of the company that had rented Michayla the cello that broke replaced it with another instrument right after the accident. But Michayla will soon grow into the larger one, Baker said.
Baker said his wife had completed chemotherapy and was home. On Friday, she is scheduled to have a biopsy done, and after that will undergo another chemotherapy treatment while she waits for a stem cell transplant, Baker said.
As for Michayla, she told her father that if the family gets any other cellos, they ought to donate them to her school "for children who can't afford to rent them," Baker said.
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