By Nikki Hedrick
Cancer is an ugly thread that connects too many of us.
The annual Rock for a Cure is embarking on its tenth year Sunday, Feb. 18, at The Block in Fort Walton Beach. The event commemorates a decade of music, camaraderie, and the community coming together with the shared goal of making a dent in the race towards cancer-fighting breakthroughs.
Event co-founder and Something to Yield bassist Tommy Siren is ready to celebrate the milestone year. “The fact we have been able to keep it going for this long is pretty amazing,” he says. “Seeing how happy people are the night of the event… Cancer is such a horrible disease, not just for the person with it, but it’s emotionally draining for family and friends to endure as well. So for people who have had to endure this tragic event in their lives to be able to take a step back and enjoy themselves, even if only for one night—that’s the most rewarding part.”
While funds are raised for the American Cancer Society, the event centers on people. The venue’s TVs are loaded with a slideshow of loved ones lost or still fighting. Often, you’ll find a little group pointing to an image as you see the beginnings of a story being told—maybe it’s about that person’s favorite car or their famous chocolate chip cookies. These stories are important.
The Helvetica Effect’s Rob Perez is a longtime supporter of the event and a performer again this year. “It really means everything to me, on every level—personally and professionally,” he says.
“If my efforts—whatever those may be, whether I’m playing or not—can help someone break through and help them forget that cancer exists even for one night, then my year is made until the next one. It’s one of those shows that they’ll have to drag me away from kicking and screaming if I’m not a part of it in some fashion at this point.”
And that’s the true spirit behind the event. A moment of bonding that reaches the corners of the community in a way that few events do. A night that embraces both forgetting and remembering. A night of solace in music.
“It’s really cool how there is a core group of bands that span many genres but have the same heart for helping those in need. I love the way it brings many different kinds of people together,” says Nik Flagstar of the varied lineup, which includes I’magene (formerly Continuum), The Luke Langford Band and Paracosm.
If you’ve never been to a Rock for a Cure event before, it can be a bit strange to put it into words without feeling like you are overselling the experience. It doesn’t matter if you know everyone there or don’t know a soul, you are welcomed as part of this tribe. Because cancer doesn’t care what your job is, what you look like, or what football team you root for…and neither does the Rock for a Cure tribe.
“From a musician aspect, I always look forward to seeing the players and just hanging with them. Seeing all the different genres co-exist and get a little inspiration from each other,” says Mr. Perez. “From the humanitarian side, it’s one of those gigs that just exists for all the right reasons in every notion. We’re all in it together and putting in all of our energies and time towards something we all feel incredibly passionate about and/or have been personally affected by it.
“That alone creates this camaraderie that’s unparalleled. If you’ve only done it once, you’re automatically a part of this thing that’s bigger than yourself. ‘Family’ seems like a heavy word for it, but it also feels like the right word.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is a $10 donation. Fokkers Pub will have food available for purchase on-site in addition to the event’s raffles and door prizes.
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