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Anonymous donor gifts instrument to harpist

Vicki Foster, a member of the harp therapy support group at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Community Cancer Center, plays the harp that was recently gifted to her by an anonymous donor.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Vicki Foster found out about the harp therapy support group offered through the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Community Cancer Center while she was caring for her father, who had been diagnosed with cancer.

The group is open to cancer patients, survivors and family caregivers. Foster joined the group shortly after her father died, about six years ago.

She found that learning to play the harp alongside others whose lives had been affected by cancer was healing, and helped her through the grief of losing her father. It also fulfilled a lifelong dream for her; she had wanted to learn to play the harp ever since she was a child.



“I had a curiosity about it and wanted to play it and never thought I would,” said Foster, 70.

Since she joined the group, Foster has rented her instrument, starting with a small, 22-string harp for beginners before advancing to a mid-sized harp as she continued to master the instrument. Buying her own would have been too expensive, she said; the instruments can run several thousand dollars.




“I’d always wanted my own harp, but just didn’t feel like I could afford it,” Foster said.

But that didn’t stop her from dreaming about owning one. About two years ago, she made a list in her journal of all the qualities she’d want in a harp, if she were able to buy one — ­cherry wood, with a higher tone, among other characteristics.

Earlier this month, an anonymous donor helped turn Foster’s dream into a reality, gifting her a brand new harp that she was able to pick out herself, with no limitations. She ordered the harp through Seattle’s Dusty Strings Co., and picked it up at Foggy Mountain Music on Oct. 1; it satisfied every quality on that wish list she had once scribbled in her journal.

“It was unbelievable. I just wanted to pinch myself and say, ‘Am I dreaming? Is this real?’” Foster said.

The hospital harp therapy support group was founded and is facilitated by Lisa Stine, a music therapist. More than 100 people have learned to play the harp in the group since it was founded in 1998. A beginner and an advanced class meet weekly, and the groups perform at local retirement homes, churches and hospital events; individuals in the group also play in the hospital’s recovery room or at patients’ bedsides.

Stine said she received a phone call from the anonymous donor who told her he’d seen the harpists play at the Community Cancer Center’s annual picnic in June and asked some questions about the group. When the man told her he’d like to gift a harp to someone who didn’t already own one, Stine was shocked.

“I was amazed that anyone could be so generous to just want another person to be happy,” Stine said.

And she immediately thought of Foster, who Stine said unselfishly and happily devotes her own time to playing the harp for others.

“She’s just so full of joy about it,” Stine said.

Both Foster and Stine said the donor’s generosity helps reinforce the underlying belief of the group — that music is powerful.

“It touches everyone and it obviously touched this man and it touches people in the hospital, especially the families of patients who are dying and community members who get the benefit of us going around and sharing it and showing it off,” Stine said.

Since receiving the harp, Foster has been diligently breaking in the strings and tuning the instrument three times a day. And she’s enjoying every minute of it.

“It’s heaven,” Foster said of the instrument. “I play it every day.”

She said she can’t express just how thankful she is to the anonymous donor.

“This harp is a gift of God,” Foster said, “and [the donor] is the angel that delivered the blessing.”

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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