Whether it is a flood or a fire, when a tragedy hits home, some of the first folks to help a person out are often musicians who rally for fundraisers to help someone in their community in need.
So as the Mountain State has been ravaged by the opioid crisis and is on the hard climb back up out of addiction, some West Virginia music promoters are teaming up to raise money to help the regional nonprofits that are leading recovery efforts.
Ian Thornton, whose Huntington-based Whizzbang BAM Booking and Management manages the internationally traveling artist Tyler Childers, has gathered a group of kindred spirits to form the nonprofit group Hope in the Hills, which is sponsoring “Healing Appalachia: A Concert to Fight Addiction in Appalachia.” The concert will take place on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the State Fair of West Virginia Fairgrounds in Greenbrier County.
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 the day of the concert if not sold out. Performing will be Tyler Childers, Kelsey Waldon, Justin Wells, The Wild Rumpus, and The Half Bad Bluegrass Band. Hope in the Hills will split the proceeds of the concert with Recovery Point of WV and The Healing Place, which operates in Eastern Kentucky.
Tickets are available online via https://bit.ly/2NQ4mY4.
Thornton said the idea to put on a concert to help aid in recovery came from Charlie Hatcher, a Lewisburg, West Virginiabased veteran music promoter, who is now part of Thornton’s Whizzbang team.
“The initial idea came from Charlie and we have been planning this thing since the first of the year and have kept it hushhush as we were planning it,” Thornton said. “It is a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. In our area, it is hard to know anyone whose family hasn’t been affected by the opioid crisis. West Virginia has its stigmas and its problems and there is a lot of focus on the opioid crisis right now and we just wanted to do something to help toward it.”
Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for people younger than 50 in the United States.
While the Appalachian region has been dramatically impacted by the opioid and heroin epidemic, West Virginia — the only state entirely within the Appalachian region — has been particularly hard hit, with the highest rate of fatal overdoses in the nation.
Thornton and Hatcher have formed Hope in the Hills, a nonprofit with the goal of creating a prosperous Appalachian region free from addiction and to send more funding to those who are fighting addiction and working in recovery. The Hope in the Hills board of six also includes Sam Sarcone, of Coalfield Development; Charles Hatcher of Alpha Music; Olivia Tyrett of H&R Block; and Quincy Gray McMichael of Vernal Vibe Rise, which is active with the efforts of the Greenbrier Valley Local Foods Initiative and is a member of Greenbrier Valley Grown and the Monroe Farm Market Cooperative (MFM).
Thornton said Hope in the Hills will produce events with the intent to raise funds to benefit projects and programs that aim to eradicate addiction in the greater Appalachian region.
When it came time to find someone to headline the concert, Thornton looked to Tyler Childers, whom Rolling Stone just called “The 21st Century Voice of Appalachia,” and who has taken his no-holds-barred songs around the world, from the Ryman Auditorium and America’s biggest festivals to venues across Europe.
“It is a heavy part of his writing, because he talks about stuff that he knows and where he is from,” Thornton said. “Seeing friends and people in this area go through this, he was totally on board, and I think it is something we want to do annually and grow it.”
Childers previously headlined a major fundraiser in July 2016 at the V Club when Thornton and Whizzbang BAM organized a 10-band, one-day concert called the West Virginia Flood Relief Benefit Concert; it raised more than $14,000 for recovery efforts after the historic West Virginia flooding. Childers then donated $600 worth of cleaning supplies, which were gathered by his good friends in Estill County, Kentucky.
Just like that grassroots effort, Thornton said, this concert will be one from which all proceeds will go directly to the recovery effort. No organizers are getting paid and performers will only receive travel expenses.
“Our focus this year is to go through these folks who are really doing a good job and trying to team up with the people who are doing the good work of recovery here in Appalachia,” Thornton said. “We want people to get better and we hope this helps. This will be Tyler’s last West Virginia show of the year and it will be a really cool spot to see a show.”
Thornton said he hopes the concert can become an annual cross-genre event like Farm Aid. Thornton said when they were researching funding for addiction and recovery, there seems to be a real need for more money to help grow recovery centers, which are typically underfunded, overwhelmed and beyond capacity.
The group states that “at present, addiction-related charities receive around $25 million in private funds annually, in contrast to $390 billion given to all charities, based on Facing Addiction and Giving USA 2016 data. This is approximately 0.00006 percent of all charitable funds raised.”
“We want to bring a positive light to this region and to show what we can do and that we can fight it and that it can come from us,” Thornton said. “If we want to see the change, we can make it happen on the ground level. We know music, and an artist with a platform like Tyler — who is really growing his reach across the country and across Europe — can shed some light on it and be at the forefront of it. I would like to see it in like a Farm Aid aspect where it comes back yearly and can bring attention to the problems we have and raise some funds and try to support programs.”
To learn more about Healing Appalachia, visit www.healingappalachia.org for more info.