Mark Braun is an accomplished blues and boogie-woogie pianist who has performed for thousands at venues including the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario; Simón Bolívar Amphitheatre in Mexico City; and Chene Park in Detroit, to name a few.

And over the past year, the musician better known as “Mr. B” has prepared for one of the most unique fundraisers to have ever benefited YouthQuest.

Specifically, on Aug. 25, Braun and a team of volunteers will transport a 385-pound piano on a tricycle built for three from Flint to Mackinac City. All within 24 hours.

From there, the Joybox Express team will take the bike to St. Ignace, where it will be loaded onto a small barge, which Jim Dryer – a well-known swimmer from Grand Rapids – and a team of eight volunteers, including Braun, will tie to their ankles as they swim/tow the instrument to Mackinac Island. The festivities will conclude with a performance from Mr. B during the Grand Hotel's Labor Day Jazz Weekend.

In addition to pledges raised by cyclists participating in the ride, proceeds from the aforementioned swim, an ongoing art auction, and a variety of events held over the past 12 months will be donated to YouthQuest. The funding will benefit YouthQuest’s art programming as well as ArtQuest, the afterschool program’s annual art exhibition.

“There’s really a strong sense of homage to me in this particular project because of my family’s relationship to the city of Flint,” said Braun, who graduated from Southwestern in 1975. “To reflect on the opportunity that my family enjoyed here – it means a lot to be able to help positively impact the people who live here now.”

Interested in seeing the piano bike for yourself? Good news: The public is invited to attend the kick-off celebration for Braun’s project, dubbed “Sprint4Flint.”

The festivities will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 25 in Brush Park, at First and Harrison streets in downtown Flint. There, you can catch a mini concert from Mr. B and his band.

Attendees are encouraged to bring along their own bicycles and ride along in a closed-course bike parade before the official journey takes off at 9:30 a.m.

Interested in learning more? Click here.

YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Also in the August 2017 issue of Afterschool Download: