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Paying it forward! CAF Winter School Scholarship awarded to US Soldier

by Skye K. Richendrfer, September 18, 2014

Of the many positive things that go on here at the Celtic Arts Foundation, I’d have to admit that my favorite is when a student donates to a CAF scholarship fund; “paying it forward,” if you will.  A great example happened a couple weeks ago when a piper from the Pacific NW learned that a young US Soldier currently serving in Afghanistan really wanted to come to Winter School.  The soldier piper, Mr. Michael Yachanin, has played with a number of our Southern Oregon/Northern California friends and is a Specialist who’s current duties include providing armed security for chaplains, among other things.  Mike also participates in services and special functions, as this recent picture shows (note: Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. David L. Cox, 2BCT PAO showing soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Strike, at a remembrance ceremony to honor the victims of attacks Sept. 11, 2001 at Foward Operating Base Gamberi, Laghman province, Afghanistan):

The aforementioned piper-donor wished to remain anonymous, but her $500 contribution put into motion efforts to find a way to cover all tuition, room and boarding costs for this coming February’s Winter School.  It didn’t take long to connect with another piper and Winter School participant who had established a perpetual memorial scholarship fund in memory of the late San Bernardino, CA Sheriff’s Deputy, Jeremiah MacKay.  Jeremiah was killed in the line of duty in 2013, and as a piper himself had participated in many services and ceremonies over the years.  Read more about Jeremiah and the scholarship here.

We all became very excited at the prospect of this year’s Jeremiah MacKay scholarship being awarded to Michael, and so we sent Michael a note, encouraging him to set aside some of his post tour-of-duty time early in 2015 to attend Winter School on a full scholarship!  I was more than a little taken aback when the phone rang shortly after sending the e-mail, and on the line from Afghanistan was none other than Michael Yachanin – jumping out of his skin with excitement about the chance to come to Winter School in February and receive all that terrific instruction from world-class pipers!  He was definitely jazzed about the chance to join us, but it was the obvious deep and sincere appreciation he expressed that so impressed me.

In a lighthearted moment, I told Mike that one of the pictures he’d shared reminded me of how I’d felt I should have prepared from my first Winter School piping lesson (helmet for sure, bagpipe case  in one hand, M-16 in the other…).

It is such an honor for the Celtic Arts Foundation to be both a catalyst and conduit in situations such as these.  The results that come from the generosity of others, connects all involved through a genuine passion for piping.  Thank you for your service, and be safe, Michael.  To Billie and the anonymous donor making Michael’s participation in this year’s Winter School possible, and to all of the other scholarship donors:  THANK YOU for your generosity and kindness in supporting our programs!


1 Comment
  1. It is truly an honor to be selected for such a special opportunity under the Jeremiah MacKay scholarship. To Jeremiah MacKay and his family, thank you for your service. Thank you Billie and the anonomous donor for your generous gift. Thank you CAF and Skye for being such a wonderful conduit and organization keeping the traditions and spirit of celtic arts truly alive. I look forward to this opportunity with great anticipation and I can’t wait to see you all.

    Mike Yachanin

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