What began as a way for Raphael Bencun to raise some pocket change for himself turned into a fundraiser for a local charity after the 12-year-old pianist decided to donate all the proceeds he’d raised.
When Raphael first got the idea to hold a virtual piano benefit concert, he already knew he wanted to donate some of the proceeds to charity.
“I wanted to raise money because I wanted to buy some things for myself … so I thought maybe I could earn some money, and I could split half of it to send to charity,” Raphael said. “My piano teacher told me about the Children’s Hunger Fund, so I did some research, and I really liked what they did, so I decided to give them half of the donations.”
Raphael began playing piano in France, and when his family moved to Santa Clarita four years ago, it didn’t take long for him to pick it up again.
“In the beginning, I translated for Raphael, and now he’s the one correcting my accent,” Raphael’s mother Sabine Bencun said.
Soon, Raphael began to blossom as a piano student, according to his piano teacher Lyle Michaud.
“He’s always just been a model student,” Michaud said. “He’s incredibly hard-working, diligent, self-motivated, and those are just really rare qualities in a person, let alone someone of his age.”
So, when Raphael came to Michaud with the idea for the concert, Michaud was excited to help him with the project, adding, “We carefully selected songs that he could perform for the virtual concert, (then) worked for months on preparing all the pieces.”
Raphael ended up choosing more than half a dozen songs to perform but didn’t stop there.
“For each song, I did some research, and then wrote down things I wanted to say that were important so that people could also learn from it and not only hear it,” Raphael said.
“It was all his own work. It was very impressive,” Michaud added.
With so many songs to memorize — and a looming move across the country — Raphael naturally was nervous but was blown away as he began to receive donations ahead of the concert on the GoFundMe they’d created, surpassing his initial $450 fundraising goal within the first day.
By the time the concert rolled around, he’d raised so much he didn’t feel right keeping it, deciding instead to donate 100% of the funds he’d raised to the Children’s Hunger Fund.
“I think that running this fundraiser and having so much money raised really gave him the strength to go until the end and perform it,” Sabine said. “His main goal was for the charity, and as parents, that was very special to see.”
Raphael raised a total of $2,000 on GoFundMe, all of which he donated to the charity.
“I was immensely proud. I mean just to see someone be so self-motivated, so selfless, to do something like that was inspiring to me,” Michaud added. “He did such a great job … (and) I was so glad that it really resonated with people and so happy to have a part in benefiting Children’s Hunger Fund as well.”
Following the concert, the Bencuns went to Children’s Hunger Fund as a family to spend some time volunteering after being encouraged by the fundraising efforts.
“It felt really good to help the charity where I was sending my money,” Raphael said, adding that he was able to see firsthand the impact he was making. “It was really fun, and I really enjoyed that time.”