Singing out for Danny’s Place

Ball in the House will perform at “A Night of Harmony,’’ a fund-raiser Saturday to keep a teen drop-in center in Acton running. Ball in the House will perform at “A Night of Harmony,’’ a fund-raiser Saturday to keep a teen drop-in center in Acton running. (Dragonfly Photography)
By Nancy Shohet West
Globe Correspondent / October 13, 2011

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Cindy McCarthy’s son Danny loved his guitar, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, hockey, football, lacrosse, and just about everything that goes along with being a teen in Acton. And when he died at age 16 in a car accident in 2003, his family and friends had no idea where to turn with their grief.

Yet only one day after the accident, McCarthy mobilized her son’s friends and their parents for an important discussion: What should we do to remember him? Despite the almost unbearable pain left by Danny’s death, the group started brainstorming immediately.

The result materialized three years later in the form of Danny’s Place, a nonprofit drop-in center for teens from Acton and Boxborough. For the past five years, the center - which rents space from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School but is not affiliated with the town or school - has run on generous donations from a network of the McCarthys’ friends as well as the $50 per year that teens pay in membership dues.

But now, for the first time, the center is trying to offset its operating losses by drawing the community into a larger-scale fund-raiser.

“A Night of Harmony’’ takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn in Boxborough. According to event coordinator Tina Hamilton, it will include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, a silent auction, a live auction, and performances by two a cappella groups: Ball in the House, featuring professional performers from Boston, and Acton-Boxborough Regional’s own student a cappella ensemble. The two groups will even collaborate on some numbers.

When Hamilton first proposed the name “A Night of Harmony,’’ McCarthy knew it was the right choice. “Danny was someone who always tried to bring kids together,’’ McCarthy said. “The phrase ‘A Night of Harmony’ reminds me of him, and how he would help people to be at peace with each other.’’

Five years after its founding, Danny’s Place continues to serve a critical mission for the communities of Acton and Boxborough. As in many suburbs, young people not yet old enough to drive sometimes find themselves lacking in places to gather and socialize. At Danny’s Place, students in middle or high school can drop in on weekday afternoons to do homework, play games, and talk, as well as attend occasional films, parties, and special events.

“This is a place where they can come and be themselves,’’ McCarthy said. “So much about kids’ lives is so structured nowadays. To have a place where they can come in and play a board game or just hang out is truly beneficial.’’

Music is part of the backdrop at Danny’s Place, just as it was in the life of its namesake. There is a collection of instruments kept at the center so teens can start their own jam sessions.

Currently, the center has just two paid staff members. Every year, the family holds a golf tournament to raise money, but even with the membership dues each user of the center pays, this isn’t enough to cover the approximately $200,000 in annual operating costs. Organizers hope “A Night of Harmony’’ will serve a purpose in not only raising funds but also make it easy for Acton and Boxborough residents to support the center, so that it can continue honoring the memory of its namesake.

“Danny was an amazing . . . amazing but also ordinary,’’ McCarthy reflected on her middle child. “He could walk in and light up the room. You don’t think [a tragedy] can happen to your kid. But it can happen to anyone. I just hope his light can continue to shine onto other people and help them.’’

“A Night of Harmony’’ takes place Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 242 Adams Place, Boxborough. Tickets are $50 and include one cocktail as well as appetizers, desserts, and entertainment. For tickets or more information, go to

VIOLIN CONCERT: “A World of Music,’’ Middlesex Community College’s fall concert series, begins with a performance by Japanese-American violinist Ryu Goto at 3 p.m. Sunday in the college’s Concert Hall (Building 6), 591 Springs Road in Bedford.

Goto will be accompanied by faculty member Carmen Rodriguez-Peralta on piano in the free concert.

Call 781-280-3923 for information or go to and click on the Events link.

HAPPY 375TH: First Parish in Concord is celebrating its 375th anniversary with panel discussions, lectures, tours, and exhibitions this month.

Among the highlights, author Ronald Bosco will deliver a talk, “The First Parish and Concord’s ‘Errand into the Wilderness’ - and Beyond,’’ at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Concord Free Public Library, 129 Main St. Other events include guided tours of the Old Manse, Emerson House, and Concord Museum; a dramatic presentation of three of Thoreau’s most famous speeches; and a look at the fashions from Concord’s history entitled “No One Wore Prada.’’

For more details, including a full schedule of events, go to

STUDYING BOTANY: The Davis Museum at Wellesley College opens “Global Flora: Botanical Imagery and Exploration,’’ an exhibition that examines the history of botanical imagery in relation to the adventure of exploration and effects of globalization on our contemporary world, next Wednesday.

The free display will continue through Jan. 15 in the Morelle Lasky Levine ’56 Works on Paper Gallery on the college’s campus, 106 Central St.

For more information, call 781-283-2051 or to go

A SHOW ABOUT NOTHING: A collection of watercolors and silkscreens by Lincoln artist Mary Kostman entitled “Doing Nothing/Nothing Doing’’ is on exhibit at the Concord Art Association, 37 Lexington Road.

An artist’s reception is planned for Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 978-369-2578 or go to

DANISH THRILLER: The 1932 Danish thriller “Vampyr,’’ accompanied by a live performance by the Sepia Tones, will be screened at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Scandinavian Living Center, 206 Waltham St. in West Newton.

For more information about the free event, call 617-527-6566 or go to

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