By photojournalist Jayne Drooger
It’s been five years since the whole band has been able to come together for a show and this was the largest yet! Wilson Van played to a sold-out crowd at Jannus Live. If you aren’t familiar with them they are Paul, Mark and Patrick Wilson, sons of longtime local news anchor John Wilson and Mary K. and together they started The Wilson Family Foundation. It was a lifelong family dream that was realized in 2015. For more than 30 years, John and Mary K. Wilson have given their time, energy and talents to support dozens of Tampa Bay area charities, while also raising three sons. Now that they are each grown, they share mom and dad’s passion for giving and formed the foundation as a family.
The mission of The Wilson Family Foundation is a simple one: helping those in need with a particular focus on veterans and first responders, children with special needs and promoting the arts. We have no salaries or paid positions. Our board is strictly volunteer so that all of the proceeds after our event costs can go directly to those in need.
When asked how they choose their charities Patrick responded, “This time they wanted to diversify to include the LGBTQ community so Metro Inclusive Health (health and wellness services that are inclusive, relevant, supportive and represent the lifetime continuum of the diverse people in the Tampa Bay area) will be a recipient. Naturally, since it’s Memorial weekend Veterans are our number one cause, https://woundedwarriorsabilitiesranch.org/ along withhttps://www.angelsagainstabuse.org/ are among the charities who will be sharing in the money raised tonight totaling $30,000.”
Patrick went on to say that “because of the venue and the crowd we were able to offer 3 scholarships to support young artists, an actor, a film student and a classical guitarist (an impossible decision to make!) who received $5,000. There are many deserving charities they could support but they really wanted to focus on local community and keeping funds here in Pinellas County. Kyle Schroeder was the first scholarship recipient opening the show and is about to release his first album! We take a little credit for that.”
This was their 12th show since 2009 even though they were trying to do it annually but due to Covid, etc. (and they still get butterflies) they haven’t been able to. They don’t even get a chance to rehearse except for maybe the day before with all their combined schedules. They have not recorded their music but do have a desire to record someday. Maybe when life slows down? What a show The Wilson Van put on for the packed house Jannus Live! They were even joined on stage but some very special guests, one for the first time, Mark’s daughter, Logan on keys for two songs, “Alone” and “Don’t Stop Believing” and Patrick’s son, Kass on drums for “Highway to Hell” and rocking out behind the mic on “Thunderstruck”! Mark started it out with a screaming guitar solo of The National Anthem just like Hendrix! Next were three Van Halen covers “Unchained”, “Panama” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”. They did four of their originals, “Betcha Can’t Kiss Me”, “If Only” “My Kinda Shine” and “Over Again” sung by Patrick for his wife on acoustic guitar (she was getting pizza for the boys so she missed the intro and ran up on stage for a kiss). Throw in some Billy Joel, Journey, Heart, Bon Jovi and even The Beatles, but when Paul came out in full Elvis regalia for “Burning Love” I was really impressed! They ended it on a high note with Van Halen’s “Jump”. And many in the audience DID just that.
The show was opened by Kyle Schroeder and an amazing band which included Tim George and Justino Walker. Don’t miss Kyle’s CD release at the Cap on June 10th, plus an acoustic set by Greg Billings, George Harris and Tony Wagner. It was a great night for a great cause.