Irving man gifts custom-built guitar to deserving teen

Photo from Yox Designs’ Facebook page. Over the course of three months, Mike Yox designed and custom-made this guitar for a Silver Creek student in need for Christmas. Yox has done this every year for the past five years at Christmas time.

Christmas time can be tough on a lot of families — stories are written about the help shelters need to provide gifts and holiday meals for families, and toy drives are held across the country. One local business owner, who recognizes this plight and has even experienced it himself, decided to ease the burden of a family every year by providing an expensive gift that some parents, despite their best efforts, may not be able to afford — a guitar.

Standard beginner acoustic guitars can run from $50 all the way up to the thousands, with the electric variety. Then add in the cost of amps, cords, cases and more, and you run up quite the tab. Mike Yox, owner of a custom guitar manufacturing/repair shop called Yox Designs in Irving, can, with his experience, tell you just how much a decent guitar with all the accessories can cost — and it’s not cheap.

About five years ago, Yox decided to donate a guitar to a local student in need. When he lived in Cattaraugus County, he’d pair up with the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department, which had lists of presents wanted by local children.

He’d find one who wanted a guitar and would get to work on fixing up, restoring or building a guitar for him or her.

When he moved back to Irving, however, he found that area police here do not have the same sort of present lists that the ones in Cattaraugus County have, and ran into the problem of trying to find a child who wanted a guitar for Christmas.

Eventually, he was able to team up with lifelong friend Matthew Bogosian, member of the Silver Creek Central School District school board, to find a student in need of a guitar.

“‘Talk to the music teacher. See if they know somebody,'” Yox had told Bogosian. “We found a great kid who wanted one, and that’s how that one happened this year, and I’m probably going to do that every year though Silver Creek. I like that, because that’s where I graduated from.

“(The music teacher) recommended a great student. He knows the parents are having tough times, the kid’s really into guitar. He’d been going to lessons at the school and borrowing a guitar from the school, so that was the kid I decided to hook up this year,” Yox said.

Yox puts in this effort to make sure the kid receiving the guitar is deserving, and actually wants one, as well. It’d be pointless to build a guitar for a kid who doesn’t want one, and heartbreaking to see it up on Craigslist on Jan. 3.

It’s all done relatively anonymously, as well. While the kid knows it comes from Yox Designs — his name is, after all, on the head stock — the child does not know that he was chosen specifically for a donated guitar. This, Yox says, is because he doesn’t want the student to feel guilty over the fact that his parents might be spread a little thin around Christmas time.

“I try to keep it fairly anonymous for the kid, because I don’t want the kid to feel bad and think, ‘Oh wow, my parents are broke, they got a free guitar.’ I don’t want them to feel bad that I do it,” Yox said. “…I’ve had rough times at Christmas with my boys, back before I was doing this kind of work, and I kind of know what it’s like to have a slim Christmas. It makes me feel good to give a guitar to a kid.”

It took Yox three months to put the guitar together — normally, his wait time for a custom-built guitar is about nine to 12 months. In the end, the student ended up with a $2,600 guitar, plus cords, an amp and a guitar case, for free.

Yox built his first guitar with his father at the age of 10, and it just grew from there. He opened his business, Yox Designs, 483 Mechanic St., Irving, in 2001.