Kirkland Ferris was a top-notch orchestral bassoon player--2nd bassoon in the Detroit Symphony--when in 2005 he was diagnosed with one of the most-dreaded neurological diseases--ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.  Usually this disease kills within a few years, but in his case (like Stephen Hawking's), it was slow-moving.  At first he couldn't play, so he tuned pianos, but soon that was impossible as well.  He is now confined to a wheelchair, has no use of his legs, he cannot dress or toilet himself or get in or out of bed or his chair; sometimes he has to be fed. He speaks with difficulty, has had many bouts of pneumonia.  

I've known Kirk's  wife Kathy  since we were 10- year- olds in a church choir in Honolulu.  Kathy is also a musician--a fine violinist, teacher, conductor, lively, compelling.  Up until the spring of 2016, she was teaching full-time in an inner-city charter school in Detroit, running a vibrant string program that gained national acclaim.  She was also Kirk's primary caregiver and taught violin privately in her home.  In the summer of 2016 she was forced retire from teaching because of constant shoulder and hip pain. She had shoulder surgery, which required a long recovery, during which all her teaching income was lost.  Then in January she had to have a failed hip replacement corrected; once again, long recovery, no income. And then again in April, the hip surgery failed and had to be repeated.  This time she has not recovered; she is in constant pain, cannot take care of Kirk, can barely walk herself, cannot teach.  

Kathy and Kirk are living on Social Security and small pensions, with no outside income now that Kathy is not able to teach.  They have remortgaged their house twice. Over the past six months,  their medical expenses, including aides for Kirk and repairs to the van that carries Kirk to medical appointments, have exceeded their income by roughly $11,000. They desperately need outside funds to pay off their current debt and to continue to hire aides to take care of Kirk until Kathy is strong enough to care for him.  Kathy hopes to rebuild her teaching practice, but that is a long way off.


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Organizer and beneficiary

Susan Brown 
New York, NY
Kathleen K Ferris 
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