You Support Makes Music
By Claire Levine
Before his 2007 diagnosis of Wolff- Parkinson-White syndrome – a congenital heart condition if left untreated, the abnormal heartbeat, arrhythmia, or tachycardia, can cause blood pressure, heart failure, and even death. Jeremy Wilson had spent months telling himself stories about why he was passing out.
He was doing too much. He was managing a band and performing and running a studio. He must be dehydrated. He just needed to slow down. Anybody would be exhausted, wouldn’t they?
But after he collapsed while waiting for his Pad Thai one night, the paramedics who picked him up from the Thai restaurant stripped him of any illusions. Even as he regained consciousness, he was worrying that he couldn’t afford a hospital stay. He protested, but the ambulance crew told him that he had a life-threatening heart condition, and they weren’t letting him go home.
Three days and $13,000 later, Jeremy left the hospital to sort out his life. That wasn’t easy, between the shock of his diagnosis and the depression-causing meds he was now taking.
Eventually, he confided in a friend about his illness, his medical debt, and his need for surgery. Jeremy’s important presence in Portland’s music scene and his big heart had made him well known and much admired in the music community. So, it was easy to rally the troops. A single impromptu fundraising event brought in close to $5,000.
Tough lessons learned. Eventually, Jeremy was able to sign up for the Oregon Health Plan and get his much-needed surgery. He had a year of relief from both the medication and the heart problems before he needed to repeat the procedure. But by that time, Jeremy had a collection of lessons learned – lessons that apply particularly to professional musicians.
He knew that some of the worst things about illness are the feelings of helplessness and confusion.
He knew that dealing with finances can be overwhelming at any time, but particularly when you’re sick.
He learned that lack of money can seriously jeopardize your health if you aren’t able to get medical help.
And he knew that musicians all over the city – indeed all over the country – need some place to turn.
JWF begins. “Rather than recreating the wheel every time someone needs help, let’s create an ongoing organization that can help right away.” So was born the JWF Musician’s Emergency Healthcare Fund.
Jeremy envisioned a source that could step in right away with a conversation, reassurance and some cash. By the time the community starts its fundraising efforts, musicians and their families would have much-needed reassurance and help.
Jeremy saw many other needs: oversight for how funds are raised and distributed; providing tax deductions for contributions; and protecting musicians from higher income taxes or loss of income-related benefits.
Jeremy engaged his friends in the music community and (although he complained about having his name on it), they created the Jeremy Wilson Foundation.
Today’s JWF. JWF was started in 2010. Approaching its 10-year anniversary, it has raised money from thousands of contributors and distributed more than $400,000 in assistance grants to dozens of Portland and Clark County musicians. But in the minds of recipients, the cash is the least of what the foundation offers.
Every musician or spouse you talk to will say the same thing: the foundation brings peace of mind.
JWF manages the money, making sure the important bills get paid so musicians can stay in their homes and keep food on the table. The foundation pays the bills directly to the vendor, so the family doesn’t have to keep track – and doesn’t risk adding taxable income.
One JWF volunteer is a trained medical social worker. She helps musicians access other resources from governments and nonprofits that can supplement the foundation’s work.
JWF spreads the word – keeping friends and fans up to date on a musician’s health, progress or failure.
Jeremy or a community volunteer will check in on the musician to learn what they need (a visit to the grocery store? Some good conversation? A hospital bed?), then finds a way to provide it.
In the next few weeks, you’ll read about the support the foundation gave to Scott McCaughey and his wife, Mary Winzig; the late Bobby Soxx Peterson and his wife, Teri Thomas Peterson; Pete Krebs; the late Lisa Miller and her husband, Michael Kinney.
If you ask Jeremy, this is all about the music community and the kind of selfless people that make music their lives. If you ask others, it’s a lot about Jeremy. Even before he established a foundation, he had a huge network of caring friends because of his own caring nature. After he has donated countless hours starting and running the organization, Portland-area musicians have run out of accolades for Jeremy and his work.
But here’s the way we can all thank Jeremy – and help the musicians who bring so much passion, vitality and fun to this area.
- DONATE: Visit thejwf.org to make a one-time donation or a monthly contribution
- You can also sponsor a JWF event so that more of the money coming in the door goes directly to musicians.
- And by attending a JWF event, you can help your favorite musician or make money available for the next musician who needs help and hear some of the best concerts you’ll ever go to.
- Invite your friends to join you to contribute and to attend events.
- Share JWF messages on all your social media channels.
- Don’t forget: #jeremywilsonfoundation #TheJWF #DonateShareVolunteer #YourSupportMakesMusic
- Have a skill you’d like to share? Are you good with numbers? Good with words? Good with video-editing equipment? Do you have development expertise or know how to find sponsors? The all-volunteer team would welcome your help.
- Are you an outgoing type who likes to meet, greet and even ask for donations? The foundation needs all type of help at its major fundraising events, like The Next Waltz.
Thanksgiving weekend launches an important period of giving. JFW is asking your help to support its end-of-year campaign, so it can expand the help it gives into 2019 and beyond
Jeremy said, “It’s hard to imagine the world without music.”
Giving to the foundation, he said, “supports the people who make the soundtracks of our lives.”
You Support Makes Music