As a technician for Verizon, Jim Hiltz stays on the move, especially in the wake of winter storms that hit the area recently. But, when the Eldersburg man puts down his tools, he often picks up a guitar and writes songs for causes close to his heart.
Hiltz is working with the group Rhythm Surf Monkeys on his second CD, which features the song "Pen of Cowards," a condemnation of cyberbullying. To finance the CD and an accompanying anti-bullying video, he has started an indiegogo.com campaign titled "Re-invented CD project."
He was inspired to write the song after hearing about the suicide of 15-year-old Grace McComas in 2012, he said. The girl's mother, Hiltz said, was a classmate of his in high school, and he wanted to do something to help curtail the type of abuse that led to the death of the Glenelg student.
"The Internet is the pen of cowards," Hiltz said, "when people use it as a weapon."
Being able to hide behind an anonymous image allows people to say anything they want, he said, even when what is said humiliates or terrifies a young girl.
Hiltz was disparaging of social media and blogs that allow anonymous posts. However, he admitted the Web can also be a power for good, as he is using it himself to raise funds for his planned campaign. Indiegogo and Kickstarter are just a couple of the many online forums that allow people to donate money to projects they want to support.
Hiltz is hoping to copy the success of the video entitled "Heroin Kills," which concerned residents put together after a Carroll County student overdosed on heroin in the 1990s. The video is featured in an exhibit at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore entitled "Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause." The exhibit also includes letters describing the video's effect on the students who watched it.
He said he wants to create something that schools might be able to use to deter cyberbullying.
The cost of the project is estimated at $9,000. The crowdfunding campaign is open through April 4.
Rhythm Surf Monkeys previously recorded Hiltz's original song "Where were you when my dad became a hero," which was featured on the group's first album, "Highway 9." Hiltz said the song was dedicated to 9/11 responders and was used to help raise money for Wounded Warriors. The song is listed on the National 9/11 Memorial Artist Registry at 911memorial.org.
Other members of the Rhythm Surf Monkeys include Kyle Reitz, Rob Fahey, Megan Wheatly, Gary Brown and Steve Kilgallon.
The song "Failure Is Not An Option" was written by Hiltz following the Newtown shootings to benefit the charity Healing Newtown, he said.
Hiltz says he is just doing what he can to make a difference.
"All I can do is put it out there," he said. "It's a good thing. People want to donate to good causes. Maybe they will take a look at our project. That's our hope."