Returning the Favor to the Harmonica Man

Kevin “McKay” Kalnasy is the kind of man you want to help. He’s one of the good guys…the self-sacrificing, put-others-first kind of person you aspire to be yourself. His family and friends are starting this GoFundMe page on his behalf because he is in dire straits, physically and financially, and, frankly, would never ask for himself! But before you decide whether or not to help, you should know a little about Kevin. In addition to being a husband and father to three boys, he’s a US Navy veteran, an accomplished musician, a prodigious philanthropist (more on this below!), and a cancer survivor. In 2016 he successfully overcame a diagnosis of stage-4 non-Hodgkins large cell lymphoma after completing 4.5 grueling months of extremely aggressive chemotherapy. The good news of remission was dampened, however, by the need for reconstructive surgery on his shoulder—injured while he was in a weakened state from the chemo—followed by many months of painful physical therapy; and the more recent diagnosis of lung cancer, which required surgery to remove 20% of his lung and yet another round of aggressive chemotherapy starting in early July 2019. Through this period, Kevin has been without disability benefits, missed 18 months of work, and exhausted his retirement funds and savings to try to keep the family afloat. Looking ahead, he'll be out of work the remainder of the year as he undergoes months of chemo and recovery—so his financial situation is precarious.

But if ever there was a case of the good you do should come back to you, surely this is it!  As one of Detroit’s premier musicians and a nationally renowned harmonica player, Kevin also takes after his mentor, the great philanthropist and musician, Harry Chapin, who Kevin played with in the 1970s and who inspired Kevin as a young musician to give back and make a difference in people’s lives. Kevin has used his talents to perform and organize hundreds of benefit shows, raising thousands of dollars for disabled American veterans, homeless families, Jerry’s Kids (for muscular dystrophy), the Make A Wish Foundation, Penrickton Center for the Blind, Big Brothers/Sisters of America, the Ronald McDonald House, and more. In the words of his long-time friend and fellow musician, Paul Wylie Smith:

— “I have seen firsthand Kevin putting on these incredible feats of charity on countless occasions. I have a hard time believing he would ask for help, particularly in this capacity, which is why I’m taking it upon myself to do it for him. If you are reading this now, it is because I have received his blessing [to initiate a go-fund-me page]. I’m sure that decision wasn’t easy for him. Which is also a testament to the seriousness of the situation he is in. I know of no one else who is more deserving of our help than my friend.”

But Kevin does more than raise money; he gets personally involved—like actually becoming a Big Brother to mentor and encourage a young person. When the child of a fellow musician fell gravely ill with muscular dystrophy, Kevin got involved in the Make a Wish Foundation on his behalf. And perhaps most telling about the kind of man Kevin is, when his friend and fellow musician, Daniel Warren, found himself in need of assisted living due to diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and a host of other debilitating conditions, Kevin and his wife opened their home to this sick friend—freely providing food, shelter, and daily (often very personal) care for over five YEARS, until Kevin, himself, was diagnosed with lymphoma and was forced to find alternative support for his friend. In the words of Dan:   

— “I’ve known Kevin since 1979. Life has dealt us both some unfortunate episodes. I’m not an individual that often asks for assistance. But Kevin is a person that doesn’t wait for you to ask. When I was recently battling health difficulties, Kevin invited me to invade and offer cohabitation in his home.  He was married and had a son still living in the home. He assisted with some onerous personal health chores that few would do and with Home I.V. and personal nutrition, and he helped me into my vehicle when my hip was in two pieces. This was not for a few months, but years… That kind of kindness would be hard for a spouse or a family member. For a good friend to offer, then execute, such sacrifice is saintly. I will forever be in his debt for those gifts and numerous prior deeds. If karma is real, Kevin is due a mountain of good fortune…”

Despite his pain and suffering through these last few years—or perhaps because of it—Kevin remains upbeat and surprisingly at peace, given his circumstances. He recognizes and celebrates the blessings in the trials—like his sister being able to come help him through his months of chemo; his very aggressive form of lymphoma still in remission after 2+ years; and getting back in the studio to record while he still has the breath to play. He likes to say, “There’s no overcoming adversity without the adversity…” Kevin has shown grace and courage and a determination not to be anxious about an unknown future. In the words of Martin Luther King:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.” 

This is the kind of man we are proud to know and love. If you find it in your heart to give, we hope you’ll consider Kevin. 

Kevin’s Family & Friends

“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…” (Matthew 6:27, 33-34)

** If you aren't familiar with Kevin's music, check out this clip of Kevin on YouTube playing Wayfaring Stranger—one of Kevin's favorite songs.  (if the hyperlink doesn’t work, copy/paste this into your browser: )

The lyrics are particularly poignant...
"I am a poor wayfaring stranger traveling through this world of woe but there’s no sickness, toil or danger in that bright land to which I go. Well I’m going there to meet my mother, said she’d meet me when I come I’m only going over Jordan; I’m only going over home.

I know dark clouds will gather ’round me. I know my way’ll be rough and steep but beautiful fields lie just before me where God’s redeemed, their vigils keep. Well I’m going there to meet my loved ones gone on before me, one by one. I’m only going over Jordan, I’m only going over home.

I’ll soon be free of earthy trials, my body rest in the old church yard. I’ll drop this cross of self-denial and I’ll go singing home to God. Well I’m going there to meet my Savior, dwell with Him and never roam. I’m only going over Jordan, I’m only going over home."

  • Anonymous 
    • $150 
    • 15 mos
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    • $200 
    • 15 mos
  • Robert Rodriguez 
    • $30 
    • 15 mos
  • Pam Braverman 
    • $50 (Offline)
    • 16 mos
  • Euclides Camero 
    • $50 (Offline)
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Organizer and beneficiary

Tracie Lester 
Canton Township, MI
Kevin Kalnasy 
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