LEBANON, Tenn. (WTVF) — A nonprofit started by a grieving friend and mother is now responsible for doubling the size of at least one middle school band in Wilson County.
The band at Walter J. Baird Middle School went from 32 members to close to 70 in one year.
"When we told them band was a great way..an avenue to college... we had kids coming up to us asking 'what colleges'?" Erin Rheinscheld said. "'If I play more instruments, do I get better scholarships?'"
Rheinscheld is the president of Catherine's Orchestra For All. It is named for her daughter, Catherine, who passed away suddenly in 2017 at 16 years old.
"We picked up where she left off," Rheinscheld said.
After Catherine's death, her best friend Julia and her own mother learned she had tried to make sure her less fortunate band mates had working instruments. Following in her footsteps helped them cope.
"When she left it was a big bright part of our life that was gone. It really pulled the both of us out of the pits of grief to be able to do something good," Rheinscheld.
Their nonprofit is now a full-blown operation. Rheinscheld visits elementary schools to host instrument petting zoos to get young kids interested. She also collects donated instruments, fixes them and gives them to schools so every interested kid has something that works.
"Band fees... bus money... competitions... the instrument costs," Katherine Stranahan said about the expenses associated with band. Stranahan is Julia's mother and now helps Rheinscheld run the nonprofit.
Together the moms visit middle and high schools in both Wilson and Sumner Counties to address what band kids and band programs need to succeed.
"Do you need a pony-tail holder, a bobby pin, anything these kids could need at any given time we have on us," Rheinscheld said.
The nonprofit has given $15,000 to Baird Middle School.
"On top of providing us a lot of instruments...they give her high fives and they tell her how they're doing in their classes," said Traci Sparkman, the school principal. "It's that relationship piece too that's important."
Catherine's mother believes she would be proud of their commitment to the school bands in their community.
"My heart was shattered into a million pieces [when she died]. It was these band kids, band directors, band parents that have welcomed us into their programs. My heart is still very broken, but it's held together because of their love and appreciation for what we do," Rheinscheld said.
Catherine's Orchestra accepts instruments in any condition. The nonprofit also collects clothing and takes monetary donations. Find out more here.