By Martin Lenkowsky
When 14-year-old Coral Springs resident Gilon Kravatsky traveled to New York in May to
see the world-renowned New York Philharmonic Orchestra perform Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite, The Planets, at Lincoln Center, he not only had a backstage pass; he got to take out his French horn and rehearse with them as well.
Plus, there’s a lot more to this story. Gilon – along with his family – were invited guests of the orchestra, courtesy of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. Gilon, who will be entering Douglas High School in the fall, suffers from Chrohn’s disease, a severe inflammatory disease affecting the bowels.
“His wish was to hear and play with the New York Philharmonic,” said his dad, Steven Kravatsky. “He came up with it on his own. What they actually arranged was for him to play with them.”
His father was surprised when Make-A-Wish liaisons told them they’d sponsor a trip for Gilon. He says he – like many people – had been under the mistaken impression that Make-A-Wish only grants wishes to terminally ill children. “It also includes chronic diseases,” Steven said. Not only did the organization send Gilon to New York, they also sent his dad, his mom, Michelle, along with his three siblings, Ari, 22, Rachel, 20, and Yaacov, 6.
“It was a family-oriented experience,” Steven said, adding Make-A-Wish also paid for the family’s side trips to New York’s Museum of Natural History, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. “All the things Gilon wanted to see,” said Steven.
When the Kravatskys traveled to Lincoln Center they were escorted by chaperones and transported by limousine. The orchestra treated them well, Steven said. “They were a very laid back bunch,” he said. “They made it a special experience for him.”
Gilon had the honor of having lunch with orchestra members. “He met with the conductor and the trombone player, who’s one of the foremost in the world,” said his dad. “They were so nice to him.”
Before they departed South Florida for New York, Gilon received an email from the principal French horn player, containing the sheet music for one of the pieces for The Planets. To prepare, Gilon practiced it with his older brother, Ari, who plays the bassoon. The day prior to the orchestra’s performance, Gilon rehearsed the piece with the band.
And how does Gilon describe his experience? “It was amazing,” he said, “just getting to talk to the players, sit next to them and have lunch with them. Some of the pieces they played were so insane. The way the played them was amazing.”
Gilon switched to the French horn from trumpet in the fifth grade. “If you want to get a music scholarship, there’s a lot less French horn than trumpet or clarinet players,” he said.
As expected, Gilon loved the Big Apple. “There’s a big difference from South Florida,” he said.
One of the people instrumental in getting Gilon his wish was Fran Garfunkel, a volunteer “wish granter” with Make-A-Wish. “I do have a ‘wish partner,’ Martha Carmen, who worked for Gilon’s doctor and recommended him to be a wish child. He met all the qualifications,” Garfunkel said.
She confirmed a wish child no longer has to carry a terminal diagnosis. “That was eons ago,” Garfunkel said. “Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. We’re not just granting wishes to terminally ill children. A majority do survive and go into remission.”
Gilon’s first choice was actually the Chicago Philharmonic, but that didn’t work out. Garfunkel said she suggested the New York Philharmonic. “I had a gut instinct they were going to do it,” she said, “and the New York Philharmonic said, ‘bring him on.’”
According to Steven Kravatsky, Gilon’s condition appears to be stable with the infusion treatments he gets for three hours every six weeks. “That’s how his meds are administered,” his dad said. “You’d never know it looking at him. You wouldn’t know he’s sick.”
In fact, Gilon and brother Ari are driving up to Maine in the middle of July for a camping trip. While there, they plan to go rock climbing and white water rafting.