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Autographed guitars stolen from Edmonton youth music charity

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Autographed guitars stolen from Edmonton charity
WATCH ABOVE: The Rock and Roll Society of Edmonton is worried how the theft of five autographed guitars will impact the at-risk youth it helps. Vinesh Pratap has more – Apr 2, 2018

An Edmonton charity is worried its fundraising for the year could fall flat after five autographed guitars were stolen early Sunday morning.

Staff at The Rock and Roll Society of Edmonton were contacted by their alarm company at 1 a.m. The glass window of the office was shattered and five instruments were taken.

“They went directly to the autographed guitars that we have,” Executive Director Todd Crawshaw said. “There were other valuables out here but they were untouched. They knew they had only a minute to grab and they targeted the autographed guitars.

“That went to our core, all of us in the society. These are guitars that we use to auction to raise money to support our CAM Program so this hurts us pretty bad.”

The registered charity runs the Centre for Arts and Music Program (CAM Program) that hires mentors and musicians to work in schools and closed-custody environments with youth at risk.

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“They teach them how to play guitar, bass, keys, sing, how to write songs. They come together to form bands and then we find them some credible performance opportunities,” Crawshaw said.

“We do this in hopes that we’re giving them some alternatives to negative influences, to boost their self-esteem, to boost their self-confidence.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Backbeat builds confidence and community through rock music 

About 380 kids have gone through the program since it started in 2010. There are currently two music mentors, but organizers would love to see the CAM Program expand.

“The money that we would raise from auctions — like these guitars — would help us hire more mentors, help us buy more infrastructure, more instruments for the kids to use,” Crawshaw explained.

He said the venue has an alarm but no security cameras, although that might change now. The society filed a report with Edmonton police. It also has volunteers monitoring sites like Kijiji for the stolen guitars.

“They’re going to be very difficult to get rid of,” Crawshaw said.

“Our goal is to get these guitars back … We’re hoping that if anyone has them in their possession, they will do the right thing and try to get them back to us.”

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Crawshaw says the instruments themselves aren’t worth that much; it’s the autographs that make them valuable.

“Historically, we raise about $3,000 to $5,000 per guitar. We had five stolen. If we achieved maximum value for each of those, that’s $25,000. It’s not a lot of money, but to a charitable society like us, that’s almost a full year of musician and mentor wages.

“We appeal to the public … If you do see these guitars — they’re a very niche market for people who might be interested in them — if they show up at a pawn shop, if somebody has overheard a conversation or sees these guitars, we really beg people to do the right thing and to get them back to the Rock and Roll Society of Edmonton.”

WATCH: After-school rock band camp targets at-risk youth in Edmonton 

Four Fender Stratocasters and one Fender bass guitar were taken, including a red Fender Stratocaster autographed by Big Brother and the Holding Company.

“That was Janis Joplin’s backing band throughout her career,” Crawshaw explained.

A pink Fender Stratocaster autographed by Sweeney Todd, a black Fender Stratocaster autographed by Jefferson Starship, a black Fender Stratocaster signed by then-Mayor Stephen Mandel, and a black and white Fender bass autographed by all artists at the 2012 Edmonton Rock Music Festival were among the items stolen.

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“We’re never going to get these autographs again — they’re likely not going to be coming back to our festival. That’s what makes them valuable, not only to us, but to certain rock and roll collectors who’ve got an affinity for those bands.

“We’re less concerned about who took them, we just need these guitars back. It means so much to our charity and to our kids.”

“I understand that sometimes times are tough,” he added. “Find it in your heart … please get them back to us.”

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