Metro-East News

He’s buying a house for a family in Haiti. He’s 10.

The Knightsbridge subdivision in Collinsville is alive with the sound of music.

That’s because 10-year-old Miguel Billings has been practicing his baritone outside. But it’s not because he’s annoyed his parents with the instrument he started playing only two months ago. It’s a fundraiser.

“My dad was talking about the earthquake that happened (in 2010),” Miguel said Sunday from a folding chair on the sidewalk outside his home on Ramsgate. He wore a St. Louis Blues sweatshirt and black gloves. “I asked my mom if I could practice my baritone to raise money for Haiti.”

Miguel’s mom, Dee Ann Billings, didn’t think that idea had any legs at first.

“I asked him, ‘Tell me how this is going to make money,’” Dee Ann said. “He said ‘Well, I want to play it on the sidewalk.’”

That was the last Friday in October. Dee Ann, Miguel and Miguel’s sisters got busy making signs and baking cookies. Miguel played outside that afternoon and evening for seven hours straight and raised $240. Miguel vowed not to stop until he reached his goal.

That goal was $4,775, the amount it would take for missionaries in Haiti to build a home.

After three weeks of playing the baritone outside for what Dee Ann calculated was 36 hours, Miguel finally surpassed the goal Saturday. He’s now up to $5,147, according to the the GoFundMe page the family set up.

Miguel sacrificed a lot so he could maintain his post in front of his house. That included asking his teachers to let him stay inside for recess to finish homework. That way, without any homework to do at home, he could play the baritone instead.

“He even asked if he could do his homework during his lunch,” Dee Ann said. “They said we probably didn’t want to mix his homework with food on the table.”

Destruction motivated Miguel to raise the money.

“They never recovered from the earthquake. Everyone thought that they were okay, but then the hurricane came and flooded most of the houses,” Miguel said.

The Billingses will send what they raise to Lifeline Christian Mission, a mission their church —Copper Creek Christian Church— supports that works in Haiti building homes for families.

“He’s been out here in the dark; he’s been out here when it’s raining. He’s begged to stay out later; he’s begged to eat his dinner on the sidewalk a couple of times. He’s just really dedicated,” Dee Ann said. “He’s so humble about it. You never hear him talk about ‘me’ or ‘I’ or ‘Look what I’m doing.’ He has no motives. He just has this amazing, giving heart that I’ve never seen in a child.”

That’s a big deal. Dee Ann said Miguel, who is adopted and joined the Billingses when he was four, has been in awful family situations, including living in tents.

“He’s never really had a home of his own. He remembers all of that. He knows what that’s like, where most kids don’t really understand that,” she said. “He doesn’t take anything for granted. He knows what it’s like to be without.”

Sunday, though, Miguel couldn’t play. A valve on his baritone got stuck. But word has spread about Miguel and his baritone. Neighbors dropped by Sunday afternoon to donate anyway.

“He’s been an inspiration to me, to members of the community, at school,” Dee Ann added. “I’ve even heard from adults who’ve said he made a change in their faith. We’re very proud of him.”

Tobias Wall: 618-239-2501, @Wall_BND

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