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Making a Difference

Avon teen sings for the sake of the homeless

By Stacey Dresner

AVON – Workers in a couple of office buildings in downtown Hartford were surprised last month to see 12-year-old Davyn Gottfried strumming her guitar and singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” in the lobbies of their buildings during lunch hour.

Her guitar case was open at her feet and a sign on an easel nearby explained her mission – as part of her bat mitzvah project she was raising money for Journey Home, an organization dedicated to providing shelter and housing for Hartford’s homeless population.

The daughter of Dan and Michele Gottfried of Avon and a member of Beth El Temple in West Hartford, Davyn has always been concerned about the plight of the homeless. From the time she was very young, she would ask her parents what they could do to help someone they  saw who was homeless or begging for money, her father says.

“She’s always had a special place in her heart for people who are down on their luck like that,” Dan Gottfried said.

Last year, Davyn learned about Journey Home when her parents attended a fundraising event for the organization.

For her bat mitzvah project, Davyn decided to raise funds to benefit Journey Home by doing something she loves – singing.

Davyn is a member of Avon Middle School’s elite choir. She also sang in the Beth El Temple Children’s Choir, as well as in several special performances alongside the Conservative synagogue’s Cantor Joseph Ness.

“I love to sing and play guitar, and my mother sings and my father plays guitar,” she said. “I decided to share my music with other people to raise money for something that I also support.”

Her father said he thought her experience also symbolized “people [singing for donations] and Davyn having the experience of putting out a guitar case and kind of begging for money.”

Davyn got permission from the management of the Stilts Building, CityPlace, and MetroCenter to perform in their lobbies.”They were all extremely supportive and very gracious,” Dan said.

Some of the buildings’ tenants, when notified of her mission, even sent out announcements to their employees that Davyn was raising money for the homeless in the lobby.

She performed songs like “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker and “Love Yourself,” by Justin Beiber. She spent one lunch period singing in the lobbies of the buildings, and one shift at the end of the work-day in MetroCenter.

“It was amazing; people were leaving, with their heads down just trying to get where they needed to go, and you could see the people’s wheels turning as they saw her,” Dan said. “They would take three steps past her, then slow down, reach into their pocket and put some money in.”

Davyn also sang in a less welcoming environment – outside the XL Center one night, seeking donations without the sign explaining that she was raising money for charity.

“I was hoping to sing before a UConn game. At first I was really excited,”she said. “But when we went into the building, somebody kicked us out in like two seconds.”

Dan accompanied her, standing far enough away to allow her to do her thing, but close enough that he could make sure she was safe and secure. Davyn said that her experience that cold February night was far different from her experience in the office buildings.

“I think people that night kind of thought that I was raising money for my family, or that I was homeless. People would say, ‘God Bless you.’” That night she raised just $19.

“In the buildings with the white collar crew, she would get five, 10, 20, even 100 dollar bills,” Dan said. “In front of the XL Center, I think the biggest bill was a dollar. On the way home we were reflecting about how, in one circumstance in the office buildings – where clearly they know she has a family and doesn’t need the money, and that [she was collecting] for charity – she made a lot of money.In the other context – where [people would probably think] she was poor, frozen and needed the mone – she barely got anything at all.”

“It really gave me a sense of why I was doing my project and how hard it is for other people who aren’t as fortunate,” Davyn said.

Owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, Davyn won’t be out singing anymore. Her April 4 bat mitzvah has now been rescheduled to September. Nonetheless, the socially conscious teen can be proud to have raised approximately $2,000 for Journey Home.

“We are always really impressed and proud when we see Davyn perform because she is so composed and confident,” Dan Gottfried said. “She has such a big heart and we think it was a beautiful project. We are really proud of her.”

Main Photo: Davyn Gottfried makes music in a downtown Hartford office building to raise money for Journey Home.

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