Banjo tops many gifts to brighten hol­i­day

Mu­si­cian suf­fer­ing from em­phy­sema ‘over­whelmed’ by gen­er­ous out­pour­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - B METRO & STATE - By Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando nvil­lal­pando@states­man.com

Pa­trick Wil­son greeted his guests with of­fers of hot choco­late and Christ­mas cook­ies and candy. The tree do­nated by Ev­er­green Farms sat fully dec­o­rated with lights and or­na­ments in his front win­dow.

When Hospice Austin, the agency that nom­i­nated 63year-old Wil­son to Sea­son for Car­ing, brought him a por­ta­ble ra­dio, his eyes twin­kled and a bright smile spread across his face. “Oh boy, that was what I’m look­ing for,” he said. “This is per­fect.”

That was the first gift Tues­day, an amaz­ing day for Wil­son. Wil­son has em­phy­sema, keep­ing him at­tached to an oxy­gen tank in his small apart­ment in South Austin. He is one of 12 fam­i­lies high­lighted in this year’s Austin Amer­i­can-States­man Sea­son for Car­ing cam­paign, which will help hun­dreds of oth­ers through reader do­na­tions of money and in-kind goods and ser­vices.

Cir­rus Logic, which makes au­dio chips that go in smart- phones, tablets, the­ater sys­tems and me­dia play­ers, has a fond­ness for Austin mu­si­cians like Wil­son. Em­ploy­ees there adopted Wil­son for the hol­i­days, and on Tues­day, they brought Wil­son a mem­o­rable Christ­mas. First up, gift cards to H-E-B. Bill Sch­nell, the pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager of Cir­rus Logic, ex­plained that this was from the em­ploy­ees. “Thank each and ev­ery one of them for me,” Wil­son said, with a big smile on his face while he shook his head in dis­be­lief.

And then an­other gift: A $305 check from Sea­son for Car­ing des­ig­nated for Wil­son’s needs. “Ex­cuse me while I get over­whelmed here,” Wil­son said.

Then Sch­nell and Steve Burke, a net­work ad­min­is­tra­tor at Cir­rus Logic, went out to their car to bring in more gifts. First, they brought Wil­son a black in­stru­ment case. When Wil­son opened it up to re­veal a banjo, he could hardly be­lieve it. “I’ve been want­ing a banjo for 20 years or more,” he said. “I’m so happy. … Oh, good­ness. Wow. I don’t know a thing about play­ing it, but I’ll learn be­fore dark tonight. I’ll work it out.”

With that he picked up the banjo and started strum­ming it. Still shak­ing his head in dis­be­lief, he said, “Y’all stay close, be­cause I might fall out of this chair.”

“You’re fine,” Sch­nell re­as­sured him.

But they had one more sur­prise for Wil­son: a new com­puter. The two men helped him ad­just his apart­ment so he could sit com­fort­ably and see the mon­i­tor. Burke hooked up the com­puter and of­fered to show him how to use it.

More good things are hap­pen­ing for Wil­son. He has reached out to both his chil­dren, whom he hasn’t seen for 33 years. Do­na­tions of money and air­line miles will get them here for a visit, and two ho­tel rooms for two nights do­nated by Ho­tel San José will give them a place to stay.

Most of Wil­son’s needs have been met, in­clud­ing a will, a pre­paid cre­ma­tion, dental care and eye care. He still could use gift cards to lo­cal restau­rants for the chil­dren’s vis­its, help paying for In­ter­net and liv­ing ex­penses.

Even with ev­ery­thing, the gift cards, the do­na­tion, the new com­puter, Wil­son kept go­ing back to the banjo and its beauty. “I’m speech­less,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much.”

To find out more about Wil­son or to ful­fill one of his needs, con­tact Hospice Austin, 342-4726 or www.hos­piceaustin.org.

Pa­trick Wil­son is over­come with emo­tion af­ter be­ing given a banjo by Bill Sch­nell of Cir­rus Logic (right) on Tues­day. Melinda Mar­ble, hospice com­mu­ni­ca­tion co­or­di­na­tor, watches. DEB­O­RAH CAN­NON / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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