John Bullard is 25 years old and a big fan of Dallas music. You've probably seen him around at a number of shows at not even known it. That's because Bullard has an aggressive case of cerebral palsy and he has to get around in a wheelchair. The CP has effected a large part of his body and severely limited his mobility, meaning he needs assistance for everyday tasks such as eating. But Bullard is a very positive person; he even has a wonderful blog that he maintains.
Sadly, thanks to a variety of factors outside of his control, Bullard faces increasing challenges coping with his medical costs. To help, his friends have organized a fundraiser called Have a Heart that's set to take place at South Side Ballroom in November, and they've even gotten Brooklyn dream rockers Beach Fossils to headline.
If all goes to plan for the organizers, Jeffrey Brown of King Camel Productions and Matthew Gray of local band Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, Have A Heart won't just be a one-off event. It's a benefit event molded like a music festival that aims to help folks throughout the DFW community, one family at a time. Bullard's inaugural event, which takes place on November 29, is just the start.
The focus of the first event, however, is to help raise awareness about Cerebral Palsy, a permanent disorder characterized by abnormal muscle tone, reflexes or motor development and coordination that 17 million people on the planet live with. But the goal, more broadly, is to dramatically improve the life of one specific individual. Other Have A Heart events are planned and each one will impact a single person. It's an admirable idea: A community makes a huge positive impact on one of its own, simply by getting together to listen to great music.
"Government help is usually such a small quantity," says Brown. "It's really just putting a bandage on a bleeding wound." Brown has been putting on shows with diverse lineups as King Camel for a little over a year now. After joining forces with Gray for Have A Heart, this is his most ambitious project he's undertaken yet. This is a project he's been wanting to dive into since he started promoting shows, and it's something that's near and dear to him personally: "Nothing else could be worth more than working your ass off to help a brother out," he insists.
Over the next two weeks, the rest of the lineup will be announced and it will include several local and national acts. Many local businesses are sponsoring this community-based event including Off the Record and Stonedeck Pizza Pub, but more are needed. There is also a gofundme page accepting donations. The idea is to have sponsors and donations cover as much of the event's expenses as possible in order to maximize the amount of proceeds that will go directly to Bullard.
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Bullard's medical expenses are substantial, and while his family has long been able to support him, his brother, whom is John's primary caretaker, is struggling to keep up. Beyond the day-to-day expenses, Bullard needs a new wheelchair and is also having trouble with the wheelchair docking system on a van, which is needed whenever he leaves home. "I know we have a lot of caring people in this community," says Brown, "and I know we have a lot of people who love good music."
As the above short video called "Dinner with John" perfectly captures, Bullard's pain and everyday obstacles can't keep his heart and sense of humor from shining through. "John is amazing," Brown says with a smile. "He's hilarious and wise beyond his years. He knows that people and fellowship are what's important." John is also a very strong person who has helped his family endure some heartbreaking struggles.
Have A Heart featuring Beach Fossils and more takes place at Southside Music Hall at 2 p.m., Saturday, November 29th, at 1135 S Lamar St., $30 presale/$45 day of sale. Tickets go on sale at prekindle.com at 5 p.m., today, October 15.