THOMAS D'AMORE, the 24-year-old captain of Fralinger String Band, chills by playing music and giving back to the community - and often by doing both.
Although New Year's Day is fast approaching, this Sunday is no exception. After a day of rehearsal, D'Amore finds time - along with his dad, brother and a couple other Fralinger members - to bring Philly-style holiday cheer to the Keeton family at the Gift of Life Family House.
The Keetons are staying in the Gift of Life house, awaiting a heart and lung transplant for 6-year-old Weston, the second oldest of seven kids. D'Amore and his bandmates spent Sunday evening donning their colorful, sequined costumes and playing a few tunes for the Keeton children and their parents.
"It's incredible [to give back]. Not just for me, but for the guys in the band," D'Amore says as he and his bandmates adjust loud, shimmery costumes that only Mummers could pull off in preparation for the surprise concert.
About 7 p.m., it's time to play, and the seven Keeton kids sit in a cozy family room at the Gift of Life house, wide-eyed and awaiting the surprise - they're from Tennessee, and this will be their first Mummers experience.
Led by D'Amore, the four Fralinger guys march through the doors playing their saxophones, accordion and banjo. Between playing bars on his sax, D'Amore grins ear to ear.
Later in the show, he calls the kids onto the floor and teaches them the Mummers' strut to a chorus of giggles.
"They had a good time. I'm glad. That really makes it fun," D'Amore says after the band's set, peeling off his sequined costume to reveal a black Fralinger "Back from the dead" T-shirt. That's apt attire, since the band narrowly escaped disaster earlier this month when the building that housed its workshop caught fire. "It hits home because a lot of our members go through the same things."
As the Fralinger guys pack up to leave, D'Amore, whose day job is with Bank of America's fraud department, is headed back to Fralinger's South Philly clubhouse.
"I've got work to do," he tells his brother and dad.
"If ya need me, I'll be at the clubhouse. If ya don't need me," he pauses just long enough for them to catch on to the familiar joke, "I'll be at the clubhouse."
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