"For seven years, Ken Chinn had been driving his daughter Tara from their home in Longview more than 130 miles to Children's Medical Center of Dallas, where the 16-year-old high school sophomore is being treated for frontal lobe epilepsy.
Recently, Chinn and Tara were at Children's, where she was "wired up," as her dad says, in the epilepsy monitoring unit. Just to pass the time, Tara was playing her favorite musical instrument, the guitar.
That led to an impromptu session with music therapist Karen Norris, who, as Chinn says, "was doing such an incredibly amazing job." That led to a deeper conversation and a surprising revelation: Children's really didn't have many guitars, Norris said.
Chinn, 55, who works in the financial services industry, sprang into action. He arranged a donation of 11 new guitars, which has led in turn to the Chinn Guitar Project, which is thriving on Facebook and LinkedIn, due to his daughter's persistence. Chinn says he's making arrangements to donate guitars to Children's on a quarterly basis.
Chinn, his wife, Rhonda, and Tara made their initial donation last month and also arranged a performance by teen-age sensation Matthew Davidson, who sang and played his own guitar in the studio named for American Idol host Ryan Seacrest.
Seacrest now has his own connection to the project. Chinn's efforts are being coordinated through the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, and Davidson's performance was televised on the in-house Ryan Seacrest Network.
Children's officials say that some of the new guitars "will be designated for music therapists to use as teaching instruments and some will be given to patients who might not be able to afford instruments to take home to keep."
Chinn's gift, Children's officials say, has helped tremendously.
"With teenagers, the common language is music," Norris says. "Giving them a tool to express themselves is a gift beyond measure."
Among those receiving guitars was 5-year-old Austin Hooper - his first. "As his name was announced as a recipient of a guitar, Austin cast aside his walker to give his new blue guitar a bear hug," Children's reported in its newsletter.
His mother, Elecia Hooper, said that Austin "always wanted to play his big brother's guitar, and it's great that he has one of his own now."
As for Tara, she is doing much better. "We were kind of running out of options," her dad says, but a recent rare surgery has dramatically reduced Tara's seizures, both in volume and intensity. "This has just been a miracle," Chinn says. "It has been a complete turnaround in her life."
As for the guitar project, "We are just getting started," her dad says."