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Timothy's Gift to stop at Martins Creek during Ohio Hope tour

By TAMI MOSSER Staff Writer Published: May 13, 2017 5:00 AM
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The inspiration for Timothy's Gift started with a number.

DC#312339.

He once was known as Tim Kane, a 14-year-old high school honors student who lived with his family in Florida. But that all ended in 1992, when Kane left the house on his bike and never returned.

He met up with two other guys, older but still teenagers, and went to burglarize a house.

Kane admits that.

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But things went awry and fatally so. The other two teens had an altercation with the homeowner and his grandmother.

Within minutes, both victims had been murdered. Kane never handled a weapon, never landed a shot. He was, in fact, so frightened by the violent turn of events that he huddled under a table in a nearby room, crying.

He was guilty of the break-in, to be sure. But the state of Florida said he was guilty of more than that. Because he was part of the group committing the felony, he was charged with a double murder, convicted and sent to the state prison in Bushnell.

His story went national several years later, which is where Holmes County native Ron Miller came into Kane's life.

Miller had moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 1988 and was working for an agency that scheduled events for Christian performing artists and Christian speakers. He caught Kane's story on an episode of "Dateline: NBC" in 1998 and found himself both intrigued and saddened by it. So, he said, he contacted someone involved with the show and got Kane's contact information.

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A friendship developed, as did Miller's passion for helping those in the prison system.

By 2010, a friend who had watched Miller's work with the incarcerated made a suggestion. "For as much as you're involved in the prison system," he said, "why don't you start a nonprofit?"

That, Miller said, was the seed that grew into Timothy's Gift.

Working in Nashville, Miller said, "there's an endless supply of professional musicians, so I thought, let's take these guys a little hope and cheer at Christmas."

It was sort of a pick-up band and has generally remained so ever since, with musicians signing on as their schedules permit. The one constant is Melissa Greene, a former member of the awarding-winning contemporary Christian group Avalon, who is now working under the job title "hope curator" with Miller's nonprofit. She also organized a female a cappella group under the Timothy's Gift name, bringing national exposure to the cause when the group competed on NBC's "The Sing Off" in 2014.

Timothy's Gift has been in prisons in three states and will add Ohio when it comes to the state for another of its Hope Tours. In addition to the concert on Sunday, May 7, at 6 p.m. at Martins Creek Mennonite Church, 6111 County Road 203, Millersburg, the group will visit the Northeast Reintegration Center in Cleveland, the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, the Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg, the Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient and the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield.

"It's not a simple undertaking to put a prison tour together," Miller said, so he is relying on his nephew, Tracy Miller, who works at Malone University in Canton, to assist. Still, he said, the musicians continue to sign on, including some who are band members for Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood. A regular on tour, including the Ohio one, is Melinda Doolittle, who rose to fame in 2007 as the third-place finisher on season six of "American Idol."

While the nonprofit pays for the performers' expenses and offers a small stipend, Miller said it's really a volunteer outreach. "They're eager to go and they're generous with their time," he said. "The biggest problem is scheduling."

The experience impacts both the inmates and the people associated with Timothy's Gift. "We're not your grandmother's prison ministry. We don't do altar calls," Miller said. "We go in with a message of hope." And there are success stories, like Josh, an inmate with an outstanding singing voice who has joined in when Timothy's Gift visited his prison. He is scheduled for release in 18 months, after which, Miller said, he is coming to Nashville.

A lot of the prison populations Timothy's Gift interacts with are survivors of abuse and/or who have been involved in the drug culture. It doesn't matter, Miller said. "When we're presenting a program, we're all on level ground. We're all beloved children of God," he said. "I guess I've known that, but it was manifested in prison."

As for Kane, who is listed on the Timothy's Gift website as the organization's "chief inspiration officer," he was granted parole in March. He served 24 years.

Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or tmosser@the-daily-record.com. She is @tamimosser on Twitter.


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