Pulaski fifth-grader Jesus David receives his custom-designed electric guitar. Photo: Courtney Blasl

What began as a simple idea to keep kids entertained during the last few weeks of school has turned into a one-of-a-kind program that has Riverhead students helping kids across the world in an unexpected way: by giving them the gift of music.

For the past two years, Pulaski art teacher Bob Fallot has been working with students to refurbished seemingly destroyed guitars and find them new homes. The project is a great fit for an art class, Fallot says, because the students get to learn practical skills like woodworking while also exercising their creativity.

Last year, they were able to refurbish two guitars. This year, that number ballooned to 80. Photo: Courtney Blasl

“These are instruments that seemed to be damaged beyond repairs. No one would touch them, but with your work and patience, we’ve turned them all into playable guitars,” Fallot told Pulaski’s fifth-graders at today’s Flag Day ceremony, where they gathered to learn the history and importance of the American flag.

To inspire more students to get involved this year, Fallot held a design contest. He provided the students with a blank guitar template and asked them to color and design their own guitars. The top three students would have their guitar design realized.

The contest received 400 entries — half the students at the school — and Fallot presented the winners with their custom guitars at the school’s annual Flag Day ceremony this month.

The fixed-up guitars have found homes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, California, Baltimore and — of course — in Riverhead. Several of the refurbished guitars are currently in use in Pulaski’s own music classrooms, while others have been sent home with students.

“It’s been a very interesting oddessy,” Fallot said. “I never thought something so simple could have taken off.”

The importance of the work is not lost on Fallot or his students.

“One of [the schools we gave instruments to] is a girl’s school in Afghanistan, where they’re being sheltered by the U.S. military because those girls dared to learn to read,” Fallot said to the students at the ceremony. “They need a little solace, a way to get their mind off of things. So when you go back into school today, please remember that.”

Contest winners Marissa Stewart (Room 222), Macklin Jordan (Room 206) and grand-prize winner Jesus David (Room 217). Photo: Courtney Blasl.

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Courtney Blasl
Courtney is a photographer, videographer, web designer and writer. She is a lifelong Riverhead resident.