Concert will benefit paralyzed swimmer

Broadway actor to perform benefit concert at Rockburst

by Jessica Langdon

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Not everyone can say the phantom of the opera has rushed to their aid.

But 18-year-old Alex Fraser, a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood, can.

Singer David Gaschen — a cousin of Alex’s mother, Chris Fraser — has performed the role of the famed phantom in both Europe and on Broadway.

On June 7, he will lend his voice to a benefit concert in Kansas City to help Alex’s family with the mounting and unexpected expenses.

Alex, a senior at Blue Valley High School in Stilwell, was swimming with his family in Playa del Carmen on March 17 when he struck his head on the ocean floor while catching a wave.

Life suddenly changed for Alex — a record-setting swimmer and lifeguard — when he broke his neck, suffering spinal trauma that paralyzed him from the neck down.

Gaschen hopes the concert on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rose Theatre at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., will draw a sellout crowd to help the Fraser family.

Alex has already undergone two major surgeries and has started rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., where he will next work on regaining function in his arms and the ability to move his hands.

Although the story of his injury drew a lot of local media coverage, it is the story of his recovery that is resounding still.

Father Brian Schieber, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel, described in a March homily a visit he paid to Alex at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park before surgery.

Having just comforted Alex with a passage from Romans — “All things work for good for those who love God” — Father Schieber told Alex that God would use him as a channel of grace for others.

Father Schieber was stopped as he was leaving the hospital by a woman with a family member dying a few rooms away. The priest followed her to the patient’s room where he eventually wound up baptizing and confirming her.

“God has already used you to save a soul!” Father Schieber told Alex later.

The parish and wider community have rallied around the family with prayers, support, visits and fundraisers.

“My wife and I have shed as many good tears in reaction to the kind and generous things people have done for us as we have for our son and the difficult time he’s having,” said Mike Fraser.

The benefit concert aims to make that difficult time a little easier — Alex will hopefully soon need a motorized wheelchair and a full-size van with a hydraulic lift. The family will also have to move into a home that will be more accessible.

Gaschen, who lives in Dallas, was stunned when he first heard what had happened to his second cousin.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s shocking,” said Gaschen. “And then you look at your own son or your own daughter and you see how quickly life can change.”

He performs quite a few benefit concerts, however, and quickly decided that an event in Kansas City might be a perfect way for him to help.

Gaschen, with pianist Larry Landusky as his accompanist, will perform a number of show tunes, including “Music of the Night” from “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables.”

“I guarantee there won’t be a single person going to that event who won’t walk away going, ‘Wow,’” said Mike Fraser.

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Jessica Langdon

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