February 28, 2010

14-year-old’s Piping for Food campaign snowballs

Young Justin Steele of Chatham, Ontario, is living proof of what  the power of the Highland pipes – and not a little self-determination and spirit – can do to call for a community to gather for good. Steele’s self-started “Piping for Food” project has grown into a full-fledged regional campaign, involving his school, his city and an ever-widening area as the campaign gains unexpected momentum.

The 14-year-old piper is a successful Grade 2 amateur piper who plays with the Grade 3 London Firefighters Pipe Band, and lives in Chatham, Ontario, a town of 60,000 that lies about 80 kilometres from the Windsor-Detroit area. Justin Steele last year won a local “So You Think You Have Talent” contest when he raised more than $2,000 through sponsorships for the United Way charity.

Justin has continued the concept with a far greater Piping for Food effort that has naturally snowballed, gathering the interest and support of many more.

“It’s not always about winning on the competition field,” said Justin’s father, Mike Steele. “Southwestern Ontario has been impacted harshly by the economic downturn, as this area’s economy is tied so closely to the auto parts industry. Justin wanted to do something again for the community and this is where the Piping for Food idea started.”

The concept started with the idea of Justin playing across the municipality of Chatham-Kent with his dad following in his pickup truck. The intention was to accept donations to the local food bank. When he asked his school for permission to miss a week of classes, the vice-principal at John McGregor Secondary School was so taken with the idea that he  asked if other students could join the cause.

The whole school wanted to get on board, but the school, too, had to seek permission, and when it brought the concept to the Lambton- Kent School Board for their approval, they in turn became excited. Now, all of the elementary and secondary schools in the area have joined the project.

And it hasn’t stopped there, either. Justin’s mother has managed to convince all of the RBC bank branches across the area to get involved.

Justin had been planning to attend the National Piping Centre’s school next week in New Jersey, as part of the Metro Cup competitions, but has now decided not to go so that he can promote the Piping for Food project.

“Though disappointed, he’s learning life’s priorities,” his father added. “We feel blessed as parents to have such a talented young piper, and we are so glad that he chose the pipes as an instrument.”


  1. This is so wonderful and such a great idea! As someone who works in the filed of hunger relief, the need now is greater than ever, and it’s the initiative of young people like this that is really making a huge difference in so many lives. All the best for continued success in this endevour! –Tony Rashid



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