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Karaoke Volunteer Uses 
Hobby To Entertain Area Senior Citizens

Lizabeth Cardenas
Fort Worth Star-Telegram 

Most people have hobbies they really enjoy, but not many people share their passion with those who could use it. Bryon Hokanson, 43, of Bedford, loves to perform karaoke, and for nearly a year, he has been entertaining residents at area nursing homes and assisted living centers with his singing renditions of oldies, rock 'n' roll, country and gospel songs.

"I get more pleasure doing it there then anywhere else at night," said Hokanson, who visits nursing centers in Euless, Hurst, North Richland Hills, Arlington and Duncanville. "The seniors really get a kick out of it."

Mary Jane Horr, activities director at the Westpark Nursing Center in Euless, said Hokanson has made a difference. 

"He is one of our regular volunteers, and it's something he likes to do," Horr said. "They enjoy having him here, and he loves them all. He has become real connected to several of the residents."

Viola Jeffers, 73, a resident at Westpark, said she is a fan of Hokanson's show. 

"I think it's great, and everyone here really enjoys it," Jeffers said. "When he comes, it's always a lot of fun. We cut up and laugh and have a good time."

Lena Allday, 87, also a Westpark resident, said his visits mean so much to the residents. 

"He doesn't get a penny - he just comes for the pleasure of seeing us enjoy it," Allday said. "He is great. He is really friendly and remembers us every time he comes."

Hokanson, who works for a construction company during the day, calls his side gig Home to Home Entertainment. 

It began when his friend, who also volunteers at Westpark, knew he liked to perform karaoke and asked him try it for the seniors.

"There was no entertainment for these people at nighttime," Hokanson said. "After supper time, there was nothing. I wanted to try and add to their social life."

He started to perform karaoke at one nursing center per month, but now he often travels to three. 

"I karaoke all over, and I meet people who like to sing oldies, like Frank Sinatra, and I ask them if they want to come," Hokanson said. "We try to find nursing centers where they live so they don't have to drive so far."

That means different singers perform each time. "Every show is different," Hokanson said. "We get such a variety of music because everyone contributes."

Hokanson borrows the collections of two karaoke companies when they do not have shows. 

"We try to go on family nights at the different centers, so we can get the grandkids to come up and sing," Hokanson said. "The seniors get a chance to see their relatives do something they wouldn't normally get a chance to see."

Singing is not the only thing Hokanson does for the seniors. 

"He also brings stuffed animals - garbage bags full - on holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter, and he delivers birthday cakes to residents," Horr said. "He's just an all-around good guy. I don't know how we'd manage without him."

His former father-in-law, Benny Smith, also has a hobby that comes in handy for Hokanson and the people he helps. 

"He plays those machines that have stuffed animals as prizes, and he wins them every day," Hokanson said. "He's just really good."

Hokanson said he has about 1,000 stuffed animals from Smith waiting to be donated. 

Smith and his wife, Mae, of Arlington, give stuffed animals to Hokanson to take to nursing homes, and they give them to local police and fire departments, as well as various nonprofit agencies.

"The seniors are so happy when we distribute the stuffed animals," Hokanson said. "You'd think we'd given them a puppy." 

Hokanson said he plans on performing karaoke at nursing centers for a long time and is interested in adding more centers to his roster.


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