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The Big Event

September 28, 2006

Fighting AIDS is not a task someone can do alone. Recognizing this, the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) at UW-River Falls has joined up with an awareness organization and local bands to raise money for AIDS-orphaned children through a benefit concert.

The concert, called The Big Event, will be held Oct. 7 at the Amphitheatre. Live music begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 for UW-RF students and $20 for the general public. They can be purchased in the Leadership Center or by calling 715-425-3911.

The proceeds, including ticket sales, a raffle and donations, will be used to help build a school for children who have been orphaned due to AIDS in the sub-Saharan African country of Uganda.

Headlining the afternoon-long concert is Twin Cities musician Mason Jennings. Along with him will be Haley Bonar, The Exchange, The Alarmists and Consolation Champ.

“We’re really pumped to do this,” said Joey Ryan from The Exchange. “We couldn’t ask for a better cause.”

Ryan, who is the lead vocalist and guitarist, said the band is happy to have the opportunity to play at the Big Event along with the other bands in the line up.

John Richards, lead singer and songwriter for Consolation Champ, also said he was excited to play with the bands, which he is a fan of.

“It’s a great cause, and to be able to combine that with great music and a great venue is an opportunity not to pass up,” Richards said.

The Exchange will play a 45-minute set and plans on donating some merchandise to the raffle, as well as a portion of its merchandise profits.

“All the bands are playing at a hugely discounted price,” said Brent Turner, leadership training coordinator who helped SGAC organize The Big Event. “They’re playing to support the cause.”

“We’d play for free; we’re more concerned about the cause,” Richards said. “It’s an added benefit to do a benefit show — it’s a feeling beyond rocking the house.”

People at the event will not only listen to hours of indie rock, but have opportunities to make contributions. 

“By buying a ticket, you’re directly raising money to build a school,” Turner said.

Beyond jamming to the music, concert-goers will be able to ask questions at educational booths and inquire about volunteering around the Twin Cities.

The raffle will have prizes ranging from autographed musical and pop memorabilia to band merchandise.

The idea for The Big Event came from students’ connection to music.

“This generation looks to music to bring people together,” Turner said.
SGAC member Molly Thompson agreed.

“Our generation is really big into music,” she said. “We wanted to turn a simple concert into something bigger than itself.”

The idea began when a group of students went to help with Hurricane Katrina relief and wanted to find a way to keep helping. They created an SGAC chapter on campus and organized The Big Event as the kick-off.

“There’s never been something like this on campus,” Thompson said.
Building Tomorrow, the non-profit organization SGAC joined forces with, has been part of other AIDS awareness events.

Building Tomorrow Founder George Srour said The Big Event is “by far one of the best kick-off events we’ve seen.”

Building Tomorrow will have 10 chapter schools by the end of this fall. The first school to join was the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 2004.

“I’m thoroughly impressed by the efforts put forth by the campus,” Srour said. 

UW-RF Event Coordinator Karyn Kling said she thought bringing national acts to a small community is a good way to show that the University and community are concerned about AIDS and eager to try to help.

“It’s an awareness piece,” she said.

Building Tomorrow has a similar mission.

“The guiding mission is to educate vulnerable children in impoverished areas and raise HIV awareness in the community to ultimately reduce the spread of AIDS,” according to a Sept. 20 press release.

In addition to The Big Event, some SGAC members will have the opportunity to go to Uganda, visit the site of the school and do some work in another institution that has already been established.

“American college students will witness the impact of their actions and gain a greater understanding of a commitment to global change,” the press release stated.

There are plans in the works making it possible for students to receive academic credit for going to Uganda. Turner said he was also working to make the trip an annual opportunity.

For information on tickets, Building Tomorrow or any of the bands, visit http://www.myspace.com/thebigevent.