Healing Through Music at Walter Reed

Water Reed VolunteerIt’s been five years since the Tacy Foundation began offering Walter Reed hospital live music, youth, and community service. In 2011 the Tacy foundation began offering youth who met Walter Reed’s minimum age requirement of 14 an opportunity to serve our nation's wounded veterans year round at this institution.

We established a relationship with the American Red Cross Station Manager, enabling us to send interested volunteers to play music as a community service.  The teen volunteers scheduled times to play music when they could during the week.  They played the piano or another instrument in the main lobby of the America Building, No. 19 on the base in Bethesda.  We also introduced Piano Pals for children of the Wounded Service members.

Those first Walter Reed volunteers are now college students. They came to make a difference and to express their appreciation to the soldiers.  Some played the piano or other instruments weekly or monthly. They taught piano using the Faber Piano Curriculum to children. One veteran recovering from injuries also received lessons. 

This service changed the lives of the Tacy volunteers.  Not only did they meet veterans and their families; they often heard "thank you so much," for their music.  They witnessed the most dedicated soldiers and families, medical staff, and volunteers they had ever seen.  All of them wrote about their Walter Reed experiences in college application essays.  The relationships formed with those very special Americans who would die for their country piqued the teens' dedication to service to the larger community. 

Rather than see it as a sacrifice, these young people saw their service as a tremendous privilege. For them to travel to Walter Reed regularly, to prepare music that would have significance to the soldiers, and to take time to help the Occupational Health Unity with amputees and double amputees took many hours.  Life became very serious and very real to these Tacy Volunteers.  In their eyes, the service they gave during high school as volunteers at Walter Reed transformed their character and gave them additional inspiration to build integrity for the long road ahead in their lives. 

I played the grand piano in the lobby every Wednesday from 11:30 am to 1 pm for two years.  I met the most amazing human beings. I may never see many of them again, but they remain heroes to me in the real sense and a standard for courage.  When the students and I played for a Christmas Party in the Foyer of the America Building, the Red Cross brought refreshments and gave the foundation's holiday CDs to each participant.

I have memory from that party that will be forever embedded in my thoughts. It was the moment when a triple amputee, a young US Marine 19 years old, sat down on the piano bench beside Katie, a Tacy Volunteer.  With no legs, and one arm with a prosthetic hand, he asked Katie to teach him to play Silent Night.  Without a blink of her eyes, she smiled and began teaching him. 

The story of his injuries came from his father and mother who arrived in time to celebrate Christmas and the new life of their son, forever changed by the war.  His spared life was a miracle.  And Katie, a trailblazer for the foundation and a believer in the power of music and healing, became another one of my heroes forever. 

Katie followed the tradition of her brother. He played twice a week at Walter Reed in high school in spite of the rigors of advance placement classes, college preparations, and his position as the tennis team captain of Churchill High School. He researched and practiced music and produced a CD just for the soldiers at the hospital. He continued to play until he left for college three years ago. These are the kind of kids Tacy volunteers are—they sign up to make a difference in the world. 

Several of you have asked about this opportunity.  It is not for the faint-hearted.  This fall, two Tacy Volunteers have contacted the Red Cross Station Assistant Manager and begun their journey.  Please call me if interested.  I will give you the contact information to become a volunteer for the American Red Cross Teens Live Music opportunity.  Be ready to become pierced with admiration, passion for others, and dedication to mankind. The Tacy Foundation acts as a liaison.  Red Cross is the provider of service opportunities.

Thank you for reading this story.  There are many more. 
 My!  How my life is woven with amazing people with indomitable spirit! 
Thank you all.
Charlotte Holliday, The Tacy Foundation

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