by Cori Hilsgen
With an increasing number of people being diagnosed with the illness, local performers once again will offer music enthusiasts some entertainment while helping raise awareness of and funding research for Alzheimer’s disease.
These performers will gather for the third annual “Rock 4 Alzheimer’s” event from 1-8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22, in the parking lot behind the Bad Habit Brewing Co. in St. Joseph.
The event will immediately follow the Alzheimer’s Association/Walk to End Alzheimer’s that morning in St. Cloud.
The Rock 4 Alzheimer’s event will include performances by “Slip Twister,” “Collective Unconscious,” “Walter’s Wheelhouse,” “The Future,” and “The Killer Vees.”
In addition to the outdoor main stage, the event will also include a youth talent stage where younger area musicians can showcase their talents.
Organizers of this year’s Rock 4 Alzheimer’s event include Jeff Vee and Tommy Vee, of Rockhouse Productions, The Bad Habit Brewing Co. and The St. Cloud chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota.
Local volunteers Jeny Meyer, from St. Joseph, and Mary Kelm, from Sauk Rapids, also help with the event. Meyer handles sponsorships and day-of-show coordination and Kelm coordinates the youth talent stage. Kelm joined the team with “School of Rock” coordinating experience.
“This is now the third annual “Rock 4 Alzheimer’s” and we are excited to see how fast the event has grown,” Jeff Vee said. “After having traveled the difficult and heart-breaking Alzheimer’s road with our Dad, Bobby Vee, Tommy and I are determined to raise awareness and do what we can to combat this horrible disease. More than anything, we want to support the local efforts that help people in our community and let people know that they are not alone. All of the proceeds stay right here in Central Minnesota, which has always been important to our family in any fundraising we have ever been a part of.”
Jeff said the event name, “Rock 4 Alzheimer’s,” has a tagline that says, “What’s Your Story?”
“When you have been down this road, you realize that just about everyone has been touched by Alzheimer’s and has a story to tell,” he said. “The very first year we did this, it was the sharing of stories and visible support in the room that was the most rewarding aspect. This event is as much or more for caregivers as anyone. Get out, take a break, blow off steam and feel support. It is so easy both as a caregiver, and the loved one inflicted, to isolate in a whirlwind of healthcare fire drills, sometimes shame, and ultimately the frustrating life challenges that evolve by the day.”
Tommy Vee said being able to tag team off the Alzheimer’s walk in St. Cloud is a motivating factor for them. It is important to get caregivers talking together and the Rock 4 Alzheimer’s event offers another chance to do so.
The Vees come from a music background and supporting music and art in Central Minnesota, especially for young people, has been very important to their family. From the “Rock Around The Clock” Cathedral High School fundraiser for 24 years, “School of Rock” shows for 14 years to Joetown Rocks for the last 12 years, bringing the area together around a “rock and roll’ music event for a good cause has been a passion for them.
That is why a portion of the proceeds from the Rock 4 Alzheimer’s event will go to “The Bobby and Karen Vee Scholarship for Youth Arts and Music in Central Minnesota.”
The foundation, as well as the Vee family’s work with The Wirth Center for Performing Arts “School of Rock” has given many local, talented young musicians the ability to perform. Several of these talented youth will be showcased on the second stage at this year’s event.
“Music has the power to soothe, to heal, to bring joy and connect memories,” Jeff said. “We have experienced this nearly our entire lives as performers that brought joyful music from town to town with our father, Bobby Vee, and many others. This concept was never so intensely real to us as it was when we witnessed the power of music bring smiles, tears of joy and special memories to our Dad as he struggled with the disease and nothing else seemed to work. Music was our best medicine.”
The event was originally created by Jeff and Tommy Vee, sons of music legend Bobby Vee, and the family of Irene Linn, in conjunction with the St. Cloud Chapter of The Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota and The Bad Habit Brewing Co. Both Bobby Vee and Linn are now deceased.
Organizers wanted to help raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease research and support to try to find a cure for the disease.
Bobby Vee, born Robert Thomas Velline, was a famous 1960s singer and musician who was diagnosed at age 67 with Alzheimer’s disease. He retired in 2011 after his family learned of his disease. He performed at various retirement shows, including Joetown Rocks, an annual event he helped create. Bobby Vee died Oct. 24, 2016, at the age of 73. His wife Karen, died in 2015 after receiving a lung transplant several years before.
Linn, of Avon, was a widowed mother of five boys, Steve, Phil, Sam, Eric and Mike. She was diagnosed at age 58 in 2009 with Alzheimer’s disease. Her sons restored a 1980 Chevrolet Scottsdale pickup their father, Ron, had purchased new before his death and Irene traveled around in, to help them deal with her disease. Linn died April 19, 2017 at the age of 65.
The Rock 4 Alzheimer’s event, which was planned on short notice the first year, raised about $5,000. Last year, the event raised about $25,000 with sponsors, donations and other contributions.
The Killer Vees were featured May 6, 2017, at “the Purple Gala” in Minneapolis, helping to raise more than $1 million for a cure for the disease.
“We hope you will join us at the phenomenal Bad Habit Brewery here in St. Joseph, Saturday, Sept. 22,” Jeff said. “This is a family-friendly, all ages event. Come for the music, the cause, the great beer and food and share your story. This is a free-will event, contribute what you can. Thanks to our friends at Sentry Bank for helping make this event possible.”
Alzheimer’s is one of the nation’s leading causes of death and is expected to increase as people continue to age.
According to the alz.org website, Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, but it can occur in earlier years. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with these illnesses.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will begin at 10 a.m. at the Lake George Municipal Complex. Check-in begins at 9 a.m. For additional information visit the firstname.lastname@example.org website.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.