On Oct. 15, Van Wilson, a local band made up of three brothers and some others, rocked the stage at St. Petersburg’s The Local 662 to a sold-out crowd. What matters here is not the rock show, which really did rock, but who these brothers are and what their rock concert did.
The brothers three happen to be Emmy and Tony Award nominated Patrick Wilson, Fox 13 news anchor Mark Wilson and advertising mogul Paul Wilson. What the concert did was raise about $4,000 of unrestricted funds for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. The Brown Forman Corporation donated spirits to the event to be enjoyed by the patrons and to help raise money.
Rocking Out for a Cause
The concert opened with the John Kelly Band, warming up the crowd with original tunes that seemed familiar, though I’ve never heard them before. The venue began filling up with an enthusiastic crowd that soon swelled to a tame mob — a packed house made up of community members, friends and family of the Wilson brothers and, perhaps most significantly, Patrick Wilson’s graduating class of 1991 from Shorecrest Prep.
Let the show begin! Enter Paul Wilson from behind the crowd, looking like the smooth devil he is, covering the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil." The music was a walk down amnesia lane for many of us who grew up listening to Van Halen, Guns N' Roses and even a touch of Jimmy Buffett.
Mark Wilson captivated the crowd with his masterful guitar riffs. Patrick Wilson never missed a beat, playing drums while his brother Paul Wilson played front man with larger-than-life incarnations of classic rock stars such as Mick Jagger and David Lee Roth. Yet, the majority of the songs were crooned by the Broadway veteran Patrick, never disappointing his adoring fans.
Philanthropy Is in the Blood
I’ve known the Wilson brothers since I was about 10 years old, growing up with them in the church where their mother, Mary K. Wilson, was the choir director of four choirs at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, and their dad, John Wilson, news anchor at Fox 13, was often nearby lending a hand with nearly anything for anyone.
Beyond John and Mary K. being extraordinarily talented professionals, their overarching shared attribute is that they both have hearts the size of planets. It would be alien to their nature to not give of themselves in large and small ways to their community and to people in need. They are far from pushovers, but they have a level of integrity that flows beyond honesty and manifests in stewardship and philanthropy.
Certainly this sense of stewardship and philanthropy influenced Patrick, Mark and Paul, but I believe it goes beyond that — it’s in their DNA. Paul Wilson said, “At a nascent age, my parents instilled in us a sense of giving. My mother wrote checks to the power company to pay for others — paying someone else's power bill, someone who couldn’t afford it. My mother is altruism personified. To us, helping others was always part of our family values. My dad seldom ignored the chance to give someone a ride when their car broke down. So we get it from both sets of genes.”
The brothers have been raising money for charitable organizations through their “family reunion” concerts for a couple of years now. Mark Wilson explained that this is an opportunity for the family to get together, have fun and give back to the community.
Patrick Wilson said in a recent interview with CBS, “if you can get the common person that may just want to come out and have a good time and hear some music and give to charity — especially a very noble one like the free clinic — then we're in good shape.”
I asked Paul why giving back is so important to him and why it is so meaningful to his family. “In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to forget how easy it can be to help others, how valuable it can be for the spirit, yours and those in need. But it is the giving that nurtures the soul and replenishes it,” he said.
How to Give Back in Your Community
Each week I write a simple column, raising awareness and celebrating the great works caregivers do in your community. This article is a call to action.
This story is all about the power of a little generosity and a lot of commitment to making communities and lives a little better and a little stronger through raising awareness and funds. Right now, our economy is putting a strain on most families and unemployment is plaguing more and more of our neighbors, making large-scale philanthropy and fundraising increasingly scarce. Yet, if we all joined together and dedicated just a few hours of our time, talent and resources, it would make a world of difference to those most in need right in your own neighborhood.
Just think of a nonprofit or a cause that means something to you, and then think of a way that you can donate talents, skills, time, resources or even money to help support that cause. If we all work together to make the change we want to see in our community, imagine what great things we could do.
For a listing of charitable organizations in your community, call 211 or visit 211tampabay.org.