The next time you think the current generation of teenagers is lazy and self-consumed by clothes and Facebook chats, please remember the trio of Sam Markiewitz, Emory Walls and Carson Mattachini.
They are 13 and live in the same Grey Gate neighborhood in Matthews.
For four years, long before the current budget crisis facing charities, they've spent part of their summers producing a neighborhood talent show to raise money for a cause.
Their first show raised money for an organization that buys better helmets for the troops serving in war zones. The last three they've made personal, raising funds for Multiple Sclerosis (Sam's uncle has MS; Emory knows someone with the disease) and juvenile diabetes (they all know schoolmates with the disorder).
And last month's show honored neighbor Sue Falco, a 39-year-old survivor of colon cancer.
"She's a nice lady and our friend, and she's trying to raise awareness of colon cancer, so we wanted to help her," said Sam, who lives two doors up from the Falcos.
To drum up interest for their show, they put together a flier with facts about colon cancer. They lined up the talent among friends in the neighborhood and at South Charlotte Middle School, where they go to school.
Fifteen acts (the cast is pictured above) showed up for the June 27 show at the Quill Lane cul-de-sac: Rappers, dancers and musical acts of singing and guitar, violin and trombone and saxophone playing. They got items donated to raffle off and sold concessions. Admission was a minimum $5 donation. Some gave up to $100.
"It was fun, and we could give back to the community at the same time," Emory said.
In the end, they raised $1,100 -- the money will go to the local Colon Cancer Coalition and efforts to bring a "Get Your Rear in Gear" 5K race to Charlotte to raise awareness that Falco is helping organize for next spring.
To date, the boys have raised more than $5,000 from all four shows.
"These three teenagers are just exceptional young men," Falco said. "They didn't just throw together a talent show, but they worked very hard to learn about colon cancer. Their flier had facts and figures about colon cancer to educate the neighbors and everyone they invited.
"They're raising awareness as much as they raised funds."In full disclosure, Sam and Emory said when the boys started thinking about putting on a talent show, they'd planned to keep the money for themselves.
Parents intervened, as parents often do, and suggested the money go to a cause.
"We thought it was a good idea," Sam said. "I don't think if we did it for ourselves that as many people would have come. This was a better deed, and it made our show more meaningful."
Emory agreed: "We don't need the money. Other people have real problems that are life-threatening. So they need the money, instead of us just wanting it for stuff we don't need."