“It’s incredible how far we have come in 12 years!”
The venue for this quotation was the cavernous Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, New Jersey at 2 AM last Sunday morning, at the conclusion of a six-hour rock concert before a capacity crowd.
The event was the latest production of Light of Day Foundation, the brainchild of Bob Benjamin, a former music publicist and producer. Light of Day’s purpose is to raise money for scientific research on Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other neurological disorders through fundraising concerts – initially on the Jersey Shore, and more recently through tours in Europe and elsewhere.
And the speaker was Bruce Springsteen.
The legendary rock musician’s loyal support of Light of Day since the beginning stems from his long-time friendship with Bob, who has lived with PD bravely for many years.
Bruce is not the only musician to work with Light of Day; he is just the most famous among many. In all, more than a dozen musicians – singers, guitarists, drummers and others – have served on Bob’s board of directors, performed at his concerts, raised money for PDF and his other causes … and even performed with Bob in a just-released documentary film on the organization and its inspiration. One of these – Joe Grushecky, a guitarist – was up on stage throughout Springsteen’s marathon (two-hour!) final set.
They love their work. They adore Bob, their inspiration. And they are passionate about raising money to understand Parkinson’s, and stop the disease in its tracks.
To this writer, in his 16th year running PDF, the experience of working with Light of Day and its gifted, creative leadership is a labor of love, but it is more than this. It is symbolic of four characteristics that drive the success of a cause like Parkinson’s research.
One is the leadership of a celebrity individual – a person like Springsteen or Muhammad Ali – who attracts attention, wins hearts and fills halls.
The second is the existence of a powerful message – supporting science of the highest caliber, to understand a disease and chart the path to its cure.
The third is the presence of an organization like PDF that can parlay money and celebrity into solid work and accomplishment.
And the fourth – perhaps the most important – is the passion and authenticity of one or a few ordinary men or women who just happen to have an intimate connection with the disease and the quiet compulsion to do something about it. On the street or in a train, you might pass by a guy like Bob Benjamin without a second look. On the stage, as he chats with Bruce Springsteen and as you look around you at the evidence of his incredible accomplishments, you would never forget him.
The moral of this is simple: each one of us – like Bob – can make a difference.