Weekend Ticket: A tug on the ‘HeartStrings’

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jonas’ Memorial Recital to launch nonprofit

KayLynn Gibson said her son, Jonas, spent years planning his high school graduation recital.

The performance was a requirement for his home school graduation, KayLynn said, and Jonas wanted to showcase his skills. The teenager, like his brothers and sisters, learned to play the violin between ages 3 and 4. He had won the Symphony League of Beaumont Outstanding Performer award multiple times and was named the Region X Junior High Orchestra concertmaster three years in a row.

For graduation, KayLynn said, Jonas picked musically complicated classics requiring intensive training and study — Bach, Sibelius, Mendelssohn. When Jonas died at 16 in January 2014, KayLynn said she couldn’t let all of her son’s work toward his graduation slip away.

To honor her son and launch the nonprofit Jonas’ HeartStrings, KayLynn said, the Gibson family and friends will host the graduation recital Jonas should have performed himself this year.

Untitled 1.crtrKayLynn said “Jonas’ Memorial Recital,” scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, will feature about eight students from the greater Houston area — friends Jonas made during his years with the Houston Youth Symphony and in the Virtuosi of Houston — as well as Jonas’ siblings and cousins.

“Jonas would have been a high school senior this year, and we had spent years discussing songs he wanted to play for his graduation recital,” KayLynn said Thursday. “I didn’t want to let the moment pass by unnoticed. As a parent, I had to honor what Jonas had spent years working on. Having the recital seemed like the most natural way to kick off Jonas’ HeartStrings.”

KayLynn said the mission of Jonas’ HeartStrings is to raise the “much needed” funds to help the ongoing research needed for children with congenital heart defects — children like Jonas.

“Jonas was diagnosed with congenital heart disease in April 1997. He was 3 months old, and we had no idea he had a heart condition,” she said. “I took him to the doctor for what we thought was an upper respiratory infection. But he wasn’t (breathing properly) because he had a hole in his heart. His pulmonary artery didn’t connect his heart to his lungs. It didn’t connect anywhere.”

KayLynn said Jonas had his first of five heart surgeries immediately after the doctors realized what was wrong. The surgeries continued until November 2013 — just two months before he died.

“With his first surgery, they froze his body for 10 hours so they could (operate),” she said. “The doctors said he had a 25 percent chance at death and a 30 percent chance — if he survived — to have severe mental problems afterward. Jonas had four post-operative complications from that surgery alone. The fact he lived beyond that is nothing short of a miracle.”

KayLynn said funding research would aid the one out of 100 children born with congenital heart defects. But Jonas’ HeartStrings’ first goal would be to raise money for children born with a congenital heart defect, and their siblings, to pursue a musical arts education.

“Music is one of these things that connects people from all different backgrounds,” KayLynn said. “It builds relationships in a very strong way. But music instruction is not cheap. It takes sacrifices to be able to provide that experience to your children, and some parents have nothing to sacrifice — they need everything they have just to provide for their families.”

KayLynn said funding a musical education for the siblings as well as the child with a congenital heart defect would allow those families to perform together like her own children.

Including Jonas, KayLynn said, she and her husband have six children between the ages of 21 and 3. The oldest, Daniel, is a sophomore at Southern Methodist University on a violin scholarship. The youngest, Joseph, will start learning to play the violin with his siblings this summer.

Jonas’ Memorial Recital will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, located at 1911 Nederland Ave. in Nederland.

Donations are welcome, but not required. For information on how to make a donation to Jonas’ HeartStrings, call KayLynn at (409) 344-0368.

Twitter: @crhenderson90