Andrew Calvert, an employee of BNSF Railway in Fort Worth and a musician by avocation, partnered with his father, Wade, a retired BNSF executive who began treatment at MD Anderson for prostate cancer in 2012, on a successful Fundraise to End Cancer project. Andrew encouraged his dad to keep a journal as a source of emotional therapy during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon Andrew and Wade began to see the handwritten notes as song lyrics. Andrew enlisted a few friends from the Fort Worth music scene, and before long they had an album and a vehicle to raise money for research at MD Anderson. Their initial goal was to raise $2,500, then $3,500. All expectations were surpassed with the final fundraising tally of $5,000. Sadly, Wade died in April, but we are honored to share Andrew’s reflections below.
When the pandemic hit, Dad felt isolated, hanging around the house with not much to do. I reminded him how he’d always wanted to write and suggested he start a journal as a new hobby. A week later, he called and said, "I’ve written something, and I think they might be song lyrics. Do you think you could put some music to it? I think I’d like to try singing them."
Recording music has always been a side project for me. A buddy and I got some musician friends together and set up a small home studio so Dad could record the vocals. We would then take Dad’s recordings and put our music to it, always socially distanced and wearing masks in accordance with quarantine restrictions. Everyone was very happy to pitch in and offer their support.
Dad became a writing machine, and what started as a one-off song snowballed into an entire album. We were going to simply share the songs online, but then thought we could try and do some good with it. We reached out to MD Anderson to learn more about Fundraise to End Cancer. My older brother designed an album cover with a 1939 photo of our great-grandfather, who was a tremendous influence on our father. We came up with the title "Wade Calvert and the Rusty Hornet Band" after the deer lease Dad and his buddies referred to as the Rusty Hornet Hunting Club. We made some CDs and tumblers and started our little fundraiser.
The project was very rewarding. It brought our family closer and was truly a testament to art as therapy. Each song gave my dad something to do, a chance to express himself, and it brought a lot of people together for a common cause. It was inspirational and illustrated that it’s never too late to try something new. Anyone can be an artist if they’re willing to express themselves.
We handed out about 300 CDs in return for donations to our fundraising page, with all proceeds to MD Anderson. MD Anderson has been so good to our dad, and his oncologist, Dr. Shi-Ming Tu, has been a blessing, very caring and kind. We believe in supporting the institution’s research and prevention efforts. Our hope is that other people don’t have to go through the challenges our family has faced.