‘Oh my gosh!’: Butler County student gifted new piano after teaching herself to play during pandemic

Arelis Betancourt Franquiz left for her usual school day Monday morning walking past the tiny, electronic piano on which the hearing-impaired student taught herself how to play during the coronavirus pandemic.

But when she returned home in the afternoon from her classes at Middletown Middle School, that was gone.

In its place, to Franquiz’ amazement, was a full-sized, traditional piano donated by a local group along with nearly a $1,000 for piano lessons.

“What is this?” said the stunned 8th grader as she entered her Middletown home and walked slowly toward the shiny, full-sized, wood covered piano sitting where her old electronic keyboard used to.

“Oh my gosh!”

Urged on by her smiling mother, Franquiz opened an envelope propped up on it from the Middletown RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) group and began to read their unsigned note:

“Dear Arelis: It has come to our attention that even though you have experienced some extra challenges in life, you have met those challenges with strength, determination, creativity, and joy!”

“The recent article in the Journal-News about the way that you used free time during the pandemic to teach yourself how to play the piano was inspiring!” read the note.

“In fact, so inspiring that we were moved to do something for you so that your dream of having your own piano could come true! Once others heard about your amazing achievements, they wanted to join in and be a part of this wonderful project.

“So, today we offer you the gift of this lovely piano which is graciously donated by Steve Hicks at A1 Piano & Organ Movers. We also offer $975 to be put towards your first several months of piano lessons with the instructor that you and your parents will choose. This gift comes with no strings attached – it is given in the spirit of helping young women right here in our own community,” said the RAK group, which requested anonymity.

“We are a group of women from the Middletown community who gather once each month to share our lives, our joys and our challenges. In addition, we take the opportunity to share our blessings and each month we offer a gift that is given as a ‘random act of kindness’ to another person in the Middletown area who has a need.”

Franquiz, who hears via a cochlear implant, had never played the piano before but used her extra time at home during the pandemic to teach herself.

Her mother, told Middletown school officials who helped in coordinating the secret piano delivery while Franquiz was at school, said she was overwhelmed with “appreciation for this amazing gift and opportunity for her daughter.”

The note concluded: “We hope that this gift helps a little bit and that you are encouraged by the knowledge that we are rooting for you!”

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