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Haydenville Musician Plays In Memory of Father

Sayla Russell-Blake

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) — You may have seen her playing the violin on Main Street in Northampton. Focused, eager, and with her mother by her side.

Her name is Sayla Russell-Blake. While most kids are enjoying summer by playing with friends, that isn’t the case for this 7-year-old.

“My father died of cancer,” Sayla says. “I decided I would donate money to Cancer Connection.”

Cancer Connection is a haven for people living with cancer. It helps families cope with their changed lives.

Sayla’s father died last September of lung cancer. She plays twice a week in his memory.

“There would be moments where she would be going to bed and she would just start crying and I said ‘What is it?’  ‘What’s going on?’ and she would be holding his picture and she was just feeling this sadness that was uncontrollable in her,” mother Jil Blake said.

“We used to swim together and we liked to bike ride together,” Sayla said, remembering her father.

Jil admits that she did not know how to help her child when her husband passed away.

“It was very sudden. There was a lot of crying at our house,” Jil said. “I think doing this is therapeutic. I think she realizes that giving feels good, but giving for a cause…you can’t put a price on that.”

Sayla has already raised $288.00 for Cancer Connection. The organization is planning to use the money to create an art program for families effected by cancer.

Sayla and her mom are also grateful for the support they’ve seen from the town.

“She was out here one day and there was a man who was homeless who came by and he put a dollar bill in her fiddle case. And he said, ‘I don’t have a lot. But, what I have I share with others’, said Jil.

“It could strike any one of us at any moment. And there’s not a thing you can do about it.”

The local musician is a second grader at Helen E. James School. She hopes to raise $500 by the time school begins.

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