Top of the Morning, Feb. 18, 2018

Top of the Morning, Feb. 18, 2018

Recording artist Chris Leamy, whose #HePlaysForMe project has drawn national attention, will get some help today from Centennial High's choir. Wearing #TheySingForMe T-shirts, the kids from Champaign will team with Leamy at the Bowery Mission in New York City. Before they sing, Leamy has a message for the Chargers: "You never know what other people are going through, so always have empathy."

Leamy is a Chicago native and Wall Street banker who has been using his musical skills to help the homeless. His #HePlaysForMe campaign has raised thousands.

"People all over the world have sent me donations, kind messages and stories of how they helped individuals in their own cities and towns," he said. "It has been so humbling to watch it all unfold."

Centennial's 54-person travel party arrived in New York on Friday and will begin its return trip to Champaign later tonight — after performing with and listening to Leamy, who has plenty to say.

"I completely misjudged the homeless community," he said. "I assumed the individuals were too lazy and selfish to put their lives back together and that could not be further from the truth.

"I think this applies to all people, especially in high school when everyone is still working things out. When I was in high school, I dyed my hair completely blonde and used Elmer's Glue to spike it all up. I looked like a complete moron, so I am speaking from experience."

Did he think #HePlaysForMe would take off like it did?

"Absolutely not," he said. "To be frank, I also didn't think that it would have as large of an impact on me individually as it has either. I am definitely not a 'glass half full' person. Seeing these people who have next to nothing be so positive and resilient is incredibly inspiring. Each and every time I go out on the street, I come away with a new lesson. It has taught me so much about perspective and how blessed I am in my own life. I am so grateful to the homeless community for sharing their time and stories with me."

Leamy's new single, "Great Mistakes," ( is a result of his work at a New York City homeless shelter.

"It has been amazing to see people come out on the other side of their hardships and do the work to get themselves off the street," he said. "The wisdom that comes with hardship is a universal thing that all of us can relate to. That really stuck with me ... As you get older you realize that a lot of the missteps from your past lead to learning some of the most important life lessons. You become a better person because of those hardships. Sometimes a mistake can be a great blessing in disguise."

Any more words of wisdom for Centennial's choir?

"When people are going through something difficult, a little pick-me-up can go a long way," he said. "I was sitting with my friend — homeless friend Hassan — in Union Square in Manhattan. A woman walked up to him and said 'Sir, can I get you a cup of coffee?' he thanked her and politely declined. As she walked away, he turned to me and excitedly said 'DID YOU HEAR THAT? SHE CALLED ME SIR!' He still talks about it to this day, and it happened months ago."



Follow Leamy on Instagram (@chrisleamymusic) and Facebook (@chrisleamymusic).

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