I founded my organization, Children Helping Children (CHC), when I was seven years old. I knew at that early age that I wanted to pursue neuroscience and neurosurgery as an adult because I believed the brain was the final, great frontier for medicine. When I read the autobiography of Dr. Fred Epstein, the world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon of Beth Israel Medical Center’s Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery (INN), I was inspired by his unflappable compassion and brilliant surgical innovations and was motivated to write requesting an interview, which was granted, and amounted to a personal epiphany. After a two hour interview and a tour of the pediatric ICU that exposed me for the first time to children who were suffering from incurable diseases, I decided that I would find a way through my musical gifts to help these young patients, even though I was only seven. I left with a strong determination to bring these children some measure of peace, temporal enjoyment, a little contagious enthusiasm, and a reminder of what’s outside that ICU door. Grave illness leads quickly to feelings of abandonment, and it is my instinctive compassion that called me to take action and help. It was then that I created Children Helping Children which has burgeoned beyond my wildest dreams into a musical fund raising arm for the national medical community, and is now a center of great import in my life.
I began by gathering other musical prodigies from Juilliard and producing monthly performances at a number of hospitals in the tri-state area. After a long day at conservatory, we would continue our music at pediatric neurological and neurosurgical ICUs and playrooms to brighten the children's’ day. My initial hope was to instill in some of my peers the same urgency that I felt to help heal—the need to reach out and equalize our world, to mend the pieces that remain broken. I decided that we could work as a group, a turn-key operation to perform fund raisers for these hospitals upon request. I called this group: Children Helping Children, and from the first small fund raising success that enabled the INN at Beth Israel Medical Center to purchase its own piano for the 10th floor Neurosurgery Unit playroom, I felt that I had found a way to galvanize the conscience of the young artists community and reorder our priorities to embrace direct action and mutuality.
The true charter of CHC became apparent, however, when I realized I would be able to use my name as a headline violin virtuoso in the classical music world to draw large audiences at major concert halls throughout the country to benefit worthy medical organizations in need of funds. I drew upon my contacts to enlist entire symphony orchestras to join my performances to create Gala Evenings at the Symphony as at Lincoln Center in 2003, Carnegie Hall in 2005, The Wortham Center in Houston in 2006, and the renowned Hill Auditorium in Michigan in 2007. As with my two recital performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Fall of 2006, every dollar collected from these benefit events was donated to a specific medical charity: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society-LI Chapter, The NMSS-Lone Star Chapter, The NMSS-Upstate New York Chapter, The NMSS Rochester Chapter, The NMSS Greater New Jersey Chapter, The Institute for Music and Neurological Function, Mott Children's Hospital at University of Michigan Medical Center, Beth Israel Medical Center’s Hyman-Newman Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery and The Children’s Hearing Institute of NY Eye and Ear Infirmary, to name a few.
It has been in this manner that my efforts have raised over 4.6 million dollars for these charitable institutions to be used for cutting edge medical research, vital materials for music therapy in pediatric playrooms, medical equipment and further media awareness. The hours of rehearsal and networking to realize my dream for each benefit concert has been well worth the effort to me because I’ve seen the difference one young person can make in the world. The humanity of charitable works is not something reserved for adulthood.
With dedicated, purposeful and direct use of my gifts and talents, I have discovered I can sound an alarm through my performances and lectures based on my MS research internship in myelin repair at Stony Brook Medical Center’s MS Lab, and stir people to pay attention to the plight of desperately ill children who need more than medication and proper hospital facilities – they need evidence that other young people are working in their behalf, uplifting the community through deeds, not words. I discovered that I do not have to wait until after medical school to make a difference in the lives of children in need. I beheld the power music has to heal and stimulate the brain when I performed at Beth Israel Medical Center’s 10th floor playroom, and witnessed the movement of a previously unresponsive child who had recently undergone neurosurgery. She suddenly began to react to the music I was playing. I distinctly remember the piece: it was Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. Towards the middle of the first movement, every monitor this pediatric patient was hooked up to commenced beeping and calling out to the surprised resident physicians; they raced to her in overwhelming excitement. She was, in fact, moving for the first time since her surgery. It was a moment I will never forget—a moment when I witnessed firsthand the symbiotic reaction of medicine and music upon the human body to which I will devote my life’s work.
Gratifyingly, the impact of Children Helping Children and my benefit performances have raised both vital funds and imperative visibility for the science of neurology. Through my work for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society alone (from my Carnegie Hall benefit concert for MS) over $165,000 was raised along with media coverage both in newspapers such as The New York Times, Daily News and Newsday, and on T.V. in popular news talk shows: CNN-Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN-Today, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Inside Edition. Hundreds of medical and media professionals have attended my lectures on the research I do in The Role of Laminin in Myelination . I recorded the sound track for a National M.S. documentary in October 2005 to give further visibility to the cause. Ticket sales from my performance on October 29th 2006 at Jazz at Lincoln Center for the Children’s Hearing Institute helped the Institute raise $1,000,000. Hundreds of children in need of cochlear implants will be helped through these funds via new research initiatives, monetary help towards surgical costs and the development of cutting edge technology.
I hope to double my efforts and fund raising goals as Children Helping Children grows within the next two to three years, and hold up a mirror to the edifice that is our health care system, to alert the medical community and our government officials to the need for advocacy in pediatric health care treatment. I hope to inspire a new generation of young philanthropists to use their artistic gifts and their creative voices to help the medical world because it takes the ideals and energy of the young in tandem with the wisdom and experience of the old to raze the diseases of our time.
My present project is the creation of two ground-breaking programs in pain management and music therapy.The projects which are being targeted as the beneficiaries of my next Concert for a Cure are: a Neonatal Music Therapy Program at Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center (the leader in medicine/arts healing); and a music delivery system for the bone marrow transplant patients at Mott Hospital’s new Bone Marrow Transplant Units. I have included a complete write up and budget for these projects among my added articles and documents, and ask that you please give them your attention. Hospitals all over the country are excited about the new evidence for music therapy vis a vis pain management, immune system boosting, mental and physical health, yet programs like the ones CHC is working to fund cannot be found anywhere. They are barrier breaking; and if not for our children…our future generations, then for whom should we be breaking barriers in medical care?