Like most boys their age, brothers CJ and Max Teas spend their days shuttling from middle school to baseball practice. But it’s the end of the day when they work the hardest.
The brothers rock out at least an hour a night in the family s Charlotte, North Carolina, guest bedroom turned music studio, rehearsing with their band. They play to crowds at area restaurants and festivals, but don’t earn a dime. The boys give away everything they make.
Before moving to Charlotte two years ago, CJ, now 13, and Max, now 12, grew up in a town devastated by the 9/11 attacks. Middletown, New Jersey, lost 37 first responders and residents that day, more victims per capita than any other town in the state.
So the brothers grew up hearing about loss, terrorism and the veterans serving in the wars that grew out of the 9/11 attacks. They felt a strong need to do something.
“We’ve been raised to give back,” CJ says. “The feeling you get when you do it is the reward, and we thought it would be special to help the veterans that have helped our country.”
CJ is the more outspoken of the two, but he takes a backseat to his younger brother Max, 12, when the two perform on stage in their band, called CJ and Brother Max. They formed the band two years ago, after winning a bet with their dad, Christopher, a Wall Street executive who commutes between New York and North Carolina.
“Our parents have always played rock music, and then we started playing Guitar Hero and our dad promised he’d buy us guitars if we got to expert level.” They did.
Their specialty is music made long before they were born. They count Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard as their musical idols. Last summer, they met guitarist Ryan Roxie, who has played with Alice Cooper. “This world needs more heroes, especially guitar heroes,” Roxie tells PEOPLE. “I think what CJ and Max are doing for veterans is not only inspiring to kids their own age, it’s inspiring to all of us.”
The brothers performed more than a dozen concerts last summer, donating all their performance fees and tips to The Patriot Charities, a nonprofit that raises money for wounded military heroes and their families.
“We are amazed at the caring and commitment of CJ and his brother Max at such a young age,” says Dana Bradley, president of The Patriot Charities.
Helping a Veteran with PTSD
So far, the boys have donated $4,500 to pay for a specially trained service dog for a veteran who has suffered from PTSD. They presented “Tiger” to retired Army gunner Angela Simpson late last year.
Simpson, a 31-year-old single mother of three, has suffered from PTSD since witnessing a violent explosion while serving in Iraq in 2008. “The only thing I remember was seeing a big black puff of smoke,” she tells PEOPLE. One of her platoon leaders was severely hurt, and Simpson has struggled emotionally ever since.
“I have nightmares, panic attacks and anxiety attacks,” she says. Buts Tiger has helped with all of that, and she is grateful to CJ and Max for their gift.
“I think they’re amazing,” Simpson tells PEOPLE. “I couldn t stop hugging them. They are incredible young men to just come up with the idea to start a band and help veterans. What young child does that? They are going to go on to help a lot of people and do a lot of amazing things.”
CJ and Max were overwhelmed the night they presented Tiger to Angela. “It was an unexplainable feeling. It was an amazing feeling to know this has helped somebody in such a big way,” CJ says.
Now that they see the huge need, they just want to do more.
“One dog helps one person, but there are huge waiting lists to provide service dogs,” Max says.
So along with the help of their parents, the boys are planning a tour for this summer and hope to raise money to buy more service dogs and to help veterans in other ways.
“I’m happy they found something they love to do,” says their mom, Jennifer, an at-home mom. When the boys aren’t rehearsing or playing, CJ, an eighth-grader, is busy as a varsity wrestler, and Max, in seventh grade, does kickboxing.
“I love just listening to them,” Jennifer says. “I sit on the stairs outside the room and just listen. It makes me so happy that they’ve found something they love in the music and have found a way to use it to give back. As a parent, I couldn’t be prouder.”
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