The concept of “making a promise” is not new, but the commitment in keeping one is often difficult, especially as time passes on. In 1997, when Ken Trush prayed in the Intensive Care Unit that his son would survive after one of his 5 brain aneurysms ruptured, he never expected the promises he made that morning would come to fruition quite like this.
“At 5 AM the doctors came into the hospital lounge where I was resting to say that Daniel had gone from bad to worse and to get my wife, Nancy to say goodbye. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My son was healthy, vibrant and full of life just 2 days prior.” says Ken, “So I went to his ICU room, thinking that this was the last time that I would ever see my 12-year old son. I spent 45 minutes alone with Daniel, talking to his lifeless body, holding his hand, praying and crying. Before I left to get my wife, who was home with our younger son, Michael, I made 3 promises that I would commit my life to if Daniel survived:
Daniel would have a meaningful life
Our family would stick together (not only for Daniel, but also for Michael whose life was about to change dramatically, as well. As a footnote, Michael not only persevered, but has flourished and is now a successful neuropsychologist)
Our family would do something meaningful and impactful for the community
Then I left, not knowing what to expect when I returned. My legs were like rubber as Nancy and I walked back into his ICU room,” reflected Ken, “Miraculously, he was still alive as his intracranial pressure had self-regulated. It was from that moment on, I knew that one day, I would have the opportunity to keep my promises”.
After 30 days in a coma and daily rehab for almost a year, Daniel came home. Nine years after his injury, the Trush family founded Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF), a non-profit organization that empowers individuals with disabilities through music. They offered free music classes right from the start because their belief was that music was a right, not a privilege. “We thought that if we provided excellent service coupled with a welcoming attitude and Daniel’s “Smile-O-Meter approach,” that people would come together and support our mission,” says Ken.
“Plus, inherent to who we are, our family would never have the heart to turn anyone away if they hadn’t paid,” added Nancy.
From the beginning the family has made decisions based on the premise of being “A Foundation of Giving,” a notion they take very seriously. Not just an organization that gives, which is how many nonprofits define themselves, but to make it an integral part of the culture which has shaped the organization from day one. Beyond that, and keeping to the family’s promise and commitment, they have never taken a salary from DMF since inception. “We have been blessed with the gift of our son and a family that has made it through together, and you can’t put a price on that," affirmed Ken.
This concept goes beyond the family and permeates throughout the organization. Everyone who works at DMF is a person of giving. The staff, many of whom have been with the foundation for close to 10 years (and longer) are what Ken defines as a “team of givers rather than takers. Each one has chosen DMF as the vehicle to effectuate positive change and make an impact within our community and society as a whole,” echoed Ken.
Fourteen years later, in the midst of a global pandemic, DMF is still giving. On May 14, 2020, Daniel’s Music Foundation launched the new DMF Online Community, a place where individuals of all abilities can connect, engage, and celebrate the joy of music together. This new platform includes free interactive Music & Movement Activities and online live events, as well as online music lessons for individuals and groups at an affordable price. They are even reaching out to organizations and schools that serve individuals with disabilities with free online field trips to help fill the void for recreational activities that may not be currently available to them.
“In these uncertain times, it has been important for us to find new ways to effectively engage our community, as individuals with disabilities disproportionately experience isolation,” says Ken, “which is only exacerbated by the current global crisis.”
Believe it or not, the concept of giving even carries through to fundraising, which they acknowledge is an oxymoron, but has proven to be successful. “Our focus is to build meaningful relationships vs. constantly asking for donations. We want individuals, foundations, and corporations to support us because of the good work we are doing rather than out of a sense of obligation or guilt,” states Marketing & Disability Awareness Director for the foundation, Carla Sullivan.
The reality of the ongoing challenges individuals with disabilities face of constantly being underestimated, overlooked, and misunderstood drives the desire to give. “The community we serve deserves joy in their lives and to know that they are important,” says Daniel Trush, survivor, President and Co-Founder of DMF. That and the promises that Ken Trush made many years ago, will always keep DMF grounded to be a true “Foundation of Giving."