Wired up in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, Tara Chinn strummed her beloved guitar in an impromptu jam session with music therapist Karen Norris.
Her father, Financial Advisor Ken Chinn of Wells Fargo Advisors, looked at Tara’s brainwave activity on the monitors and marveled at the power of music. He knew then that he wanted to help other young patients experience the same benefits.
“I’ll give you 11 guitars,” he told Karen.
That 2013 encounter led Ken and Tara, who was diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy at the age of 8 and is now 18, to form the Chinn Guitar Project. The nonprofit has since given away nearly 2,000 guitars to children in hospitals and schools across the U.S.
‘A source of healing’
“Music has always been a source of healing for me,” Tara says. “The melodies and lyrics give me strength and encouragement to carry on in difficult times. Strumming a guitar gives me a feeling of joy and comfort, and there are so many other kids out there who need that same feeling. Nothing makes me happier than to see a child’s face light up when they are given a guitar.”
On Facebook and LinkedIn, Tara maintains a steady beat of posts about the nonprofit, which has picked up some allies like the Ryan Seacrest Foundation and the Forever Young Foundation of former NFL quarterback Steve Young. They use the Chinn Guitar Project to arrange guitar donations for their Seacrest Studios and Sophie’s Place music therapy facilities in children’s hospitals.
Ken says, “I had been playing the guitar off and on since junior high school but really fell in love with it again when Tara started getting sick.” Music, he adds, not only became his therapy but the family’s as well.
The headquarters for Ken’s labor of love is the Chinn Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Longview, Texas. His Chinn Guitar Project volunteerism earned him the 2015 “Advisor with Heart” award from Registered Rep magazine.
Several associates regularly help the cause by assisting with deliveries to area hospitals and schools. For longer distances, Ken uses a wholesale company to buy and ship the guitars direct.
At Children’s Medical Center, Karen says a child used one of the project’s guitars to write a song about her 7-year-old brother after his death.
“The Chinn Guitar Project has been amazing because it’s provided us with so many guitars,” she says. “Music is such a great outlet and, especially for teenagers, music is their language. It’s a fascinating tool of healing, and we’re learning more and more about just how important it is.”