Naperville teen's concert finds new cause: pediatric brain cancer research

Naperville teen's concert finds new cause: Swifty Foundation for pediatric brain cancer

  • Naperville North High School senior Taylor Kroma is planning the second annual Healing Hearts with Harmony concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, to benefit the Swifty Foundation, a nonprofit started by the family of a late Naperville North student who died his freshman year of a brain tumor. Last year's concert benefitted the Edward Foundation after medical staff at Edward Hospital helped save the life of Kroma's father, Jeff Kroma.

    Naperville North High School senior Taylor Kroma is planning the second annual Healing Hearts with Harmony concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, to benefit the Swifty Foundation, a nonprofit started by the family of a late Naperville North student who died his freshman year of a brain tumor. Last year's concert benefitted the Edward Foundation after medical staff at Edward Hospital helped save the life of Kroma's father, Jeff Kroma. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer May 2014

  • Naperville North High School student Taylor Kroma smiles with her father, Jeff Kroma, and orchestra teacher Dana Green after the first Healing Hearts with Harmony benefit concert in 2014, which raised money for Edward Hospital. This year's concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, will benefit the Swifty Foundation.

    Naperville North High School student Taylor Kroma smiles with her father, Jeff Kroma, and orchestra teacher Dana Green after the first Healing Hearts with Harmony benefit concert in 2014, which raised money for Edward Hospital. This year's concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, will benefit the Swifty Foundation. Courtesy of Taylor Kroma, May 2014

  • Naperville North High School junior Bridget Gustafson and her best friend Kira Couch get their heads shaved to benefit the Swifty Foundation, which the Gustafson family started to raise money for pediatric brain cancer, such as the tumor that killed Bridget's twin brother, Michael.

    Naperville North High School junior Bridget Gustafson and her best friend Kira Couch get their heads shaved to benefit the Swifty Foundation, which the Gustafson family started to raise money for pediatric brain cancer, such as the tumor that killed Bridget's twin brother, Michael. Daniel White | Staff Photographer November 2014

 
 
Updated 5/5/2015 6:08 PM
This article has been updated to correct the time of the concert. It begins at 7 p.m.

A Naperville student who planned a concert that raised $2,000 last year for Edward Hospital is back this week with a new show for a new cause: pediatric brain cancer research.

The second Healing Hearts with Harmony concert organized by Naperville North High School senior Taylor Kroma is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, at the school's Performing Arts Center, 899 N. Mill St.

 

Instead of donating to the hospital that saved her dad's life, the second annual concert will benefit the Swifty Foundation, a pediatric brain cancer research nonprofit started by the family of late Naperville North student Michael "Mikey" Gustafson of Woodridge, who died in January 2013 of a brain tumor.

Kroma, a cellist in several ensembles at Naperville North, says she's working with the school's new Tri-M music honor society to make the Healing Hearts concert an annual event that will benefit a different local charity each year.

She started it last year to thank Edward Hospital nurses and doctors who cared for her father, Jeff Kroma, when he suffered heart pain that required emergency surgery and led to a 12-day coma, a stroke, seizures and several blood clots. With Jeff Kroma doing much better medically, his daughter said it's time for the concert to find a new cause.

"Everyone wants to make it an annual thing just because it's such a great idea to give back to something in our community through the music program," she said about the concert, which will feature a 19-piece string ensemble, a string quartet called The Mendelssohn and Daughters, a brass quintet, a percussion duet, two vocal pop groups, an acoustic guitar trio, a jazz trio and possibly a choir of "boomwhackers," that make music when slammed into the ground.

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In her second year planning the event, which raises money by asking attendees to make a donation of any size or buy goodies from a bake sale, Kroma chose the Swifty Foundation because of its connections to her school.

Michael Gustafson played golf for the Huskies during his brief time at North. His older brother, Ian, is a Naperville North alum and his twin sister, Bridget, is a junior.

"Michael's story has always been in our school," Kroma said. "I wanted this year for it to really hit home, and I think for a lot of kids this does because a lot of kids knew him."

Michael's mother, Patti Gustafson, said the Swifty Foundation has donated $165,000 to pediatric brain cancer research and is trying to raise another $60,000 this year. With $5,453 toward that goal so far, Gustafson said she hopes the Healing Hearts concert can offer a boost as classmates of Michael's continue to honor his memory.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He died a few months into his freshman year. He only went to classes for a few weeks, but he was embraced hugely by the community there," Gustafson said. "It's so beautiful to see these little ripple effects that Michael has had."

Kroma, who plans to pursue jazz studies and music education at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, beginning in the fall, also sees beauty in the mission of putting on a concert for a public good. Last year's event helped her process the trauma of witnessing one of her father's seizures and enduring his coma, and through the songs students played, she began to find peace.

"As the concert progressed, it grew past the emotional part and more into a hopeful part," Kroma said. "That's the feeling I want to instill in the audience, a feeling of renewed hope and a sense of community."

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