A concert for a cause
As a packed audience sang and danced to “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and other hits from Tommy James and the Shondells, the Rotary Club of Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA was coming up clover, too.
James headlined the club’s End Polio Now Concert, which raised $220,000 in April.
Club member Robert Herber had contacted Ridgefield resident Brad Joblin, a music producer who had a connection with James through work earlier in his career.
“Robert said he wanted to do something big,” Joblin says. “He didn’t want two guys with acoustic guitars. I suggested Tommy James, and the club agreed.”
With James on board, the club was off and running. It had just four months to prepare for the concert at the Ridgefield Playhouse, where Joblin is a board member.
“We said, ‘Well, it’s a gamble, but let’s go,’” says Sue Manning, who was among four Rotarians who took lead roles in nailing down business sponsorships, publicizing the event, organizing a live auction, and planning logistics. They had 550 tickets to sell at $97 each. They sold every one.
“Everybody came together,” Manning says. “You really need to pump it up to get that kind of money.”
Adds Herber, “The team was small, but the resources were stellar.”
The 2-to-1 match from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped persuade 20 businesses and families to kick in $2,500 each for sponsorships. Sponsors were invited to a reception with James and received a signed copy of his book, Me, the Mob, and the Music: A Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells.
Herber notes that the money raised in one night, including the match, exceeded the club’s total contributions to The Rotary Foundation since the club was founded in 1941.
Just like the Rotarians, James enjoyed being part of all the good vibrations the concert created.
“It was heartwarming to see the beautiful town of Ridgefield come together in support of such a worthy global cause,” James says. “It was a remarkable evening for me, which I will never forget.”
While Joblin played a vital role, he credits the Ridgefield club for making the event such a success. “It exceeded all expectations. That was because of the power of the Rotarians to go to the community for support, and the community responded.”
— Annemarie Mannion
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