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Teen devotes life to helping others

8:06 AM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- When Luke Putney arrives at the oncology wing at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, he always has a present for one of the patients.

On this day, he has a bass guitar for 12-year-old Trenton, a bubbly young man with an easy laugh and a big smile.

"This guitar is for you, buddy," Luke said.

"Oh, thank you," Trenton said with a huge grin on his face.

The guitar is more than a gift. It's a lifeline for Trenton.

"Maybe (patients) have a chronic illness that keeps them less active than they want to be physically, but here's another way. You can play guitar," said Beth Collier a music therapist with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

For more than a year now, through the non-profit Blue Star Connection of Denver, 18-year-old Luke has helped provide instruments to about 20 of the hospital's cancer patients.

"Luke contacted us at the hospital. He was looking for the music therapist and said, 'I've got something I think will help you,'" Collier said.

Collier admitted she didn't know what to expect when she finally met Luke.

"In walks Luke and his mom. He comes and meets with the music therapy team and runs a meeting with an agenda he created. And, instantly I knew this kid is going somewhere and whatever he offers, we want it," Collier said.

"It's given me a chance to give to people what I had, as my source of hope," Luke said.

Luke understands the need for hope.

"I started going blind in third and fourth grade," he said. "I had brain surgery in fifth grade and again in 8th grade."

As a way of coping, he began playing the bass guitar.

"It helps me when I'm having a rough day," he said. "I'll stop being frustrated. I'll stop being angry, and I'll just focus on having a nice time."

The Whitefield Academy student is in a band called Skittle Biscuit.

"Music has helped me get through," Luke said. "God has helped me get through, and just recently, wrestling has helped me get though."

He started wrestling a couple of years ago despite objections from his doctors.

"The doctors didn't want me to, but I did it anyway," Luke said. "I started getting into it right after I started winning a couple matches and my passion just kind of let loose on that sport."

So, he chose to use it for a greater good by asking people to pledge money for every match he won.

"And, I decided to put it toward a well in Africa," he said.

The $4,700 Luke collected helped build a well in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan.

But, Luke's ultimate gift is changing stereotypes about the disabled.

"If someone without sight can do something like building a well in Africa, they could believe in themselves to do what they're doing," Luke said.

"It gives me a focus on other people and other problems in the world," he said. "I can stop focusing on what my problems are and start helping other people."

Clearly, Luke is quite a visionary.

Next school year he will be dual enrolled in classes at Whitefield Academy and Georgia State University.

He plans to focus on jazz music.

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