Family Helps Find Guitars For Students, Sick Children


Longview businessman Ken Chinn is giving away guitars because his teenage daughter, Tara, gave him “the look.” The guitars are for sick and needy children who want to play but whose families can’t afford to buy guitars for them.

To avoid Tara’s look in the future, Chinn, who can’t fill the whole need by himself, is also asking for donated guitars.

“That look said, ‘Dad, this is something you must do,’” Chinn said, recalling being on the receiving end from Tara, a patient at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. The pair was at the hospital where Tara has been treated for frontal lobe epilepsy for the past seven years. Tara brought along her guitar to pass the time on this particular visit.

A nurse mentioned the Children’s music therapy program, and the father and daughter, who both love music and play guitar, and a music therapist told them the program had just four guitars.

Tara gave her dad the look.

“Tara had carried her guitar into her room and stuck it in the corner,” Chinn said. “The charge nurse saw the guitar and asked if we would like to bring in a musical therapist. We said, of course. The music therapist, Karen Norris, comes in, and I’m completely blown away. Music therapists are psychologists and musicians together. They relate so well to patients and their issues. My question was, I guess you have plenty of guitars for your program. To my shock, she hung her head. She said, I wish it were so.”

Children’s has four full-time musical therapists, each with only their own instruments that they share with patients.

“So this is when my daughter gives me this look. She knows I’ve already been giving away guitars. So I told them I’d give them 10 guitars. I thought she was going to hug and kiss me right on the spot.”

Chinn and Tara found and donated 11 – not 10 – brand new guitars in various sizes and colors, plus, guitar straps, picks, tuners and gift bags for patients. Some will be designated for music therapists to use as teaching instruments and some will be given to patients who might not be able to afford instruments to take home to keep. The father and daughter also brought along young guitarist Matthew Davidson to perform for patients and their families.

The Chinn Guitar Project has also been giving guitars to school districts for the past year, including Atlanta, Jefferson, Linden, Spring Hill, and Texarkana.

“There are many more on the wish list, and the group of potential donors is growing as well,” said Chinn, a financial planner for Wells Fargo in Longview. “The response has been incredible.”

Music therapist Karen Norris at Children’s said the gift of music is priceless, especially since the extra guitars can be “loaned” to patients to keep in their rooms.

“With teenagers, the one common language is music,” Norris said. “Giving them a tool to express themselves is a gift beyond measure.”

One of the younger patients is five-year-old Austin Hooper. As his name was announced, Austin cast aside his walker to give his new blue guitar a bear hug.

“He always wanted to play his big brother’s guitar, and it’s great that he has one of his own now,” said his mother, Elecia Hooper.

To help or for more information, go to “Chinn Guitar Project” on Facebook.

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