Though it started off small, Dustin Row has built an entire evening of music to benefit veterans in a cause called Songs4Soldiers.
Row, who was born and raised in Columbia, is an Iraq war veteran who served in combat from 2004 to 2005.
After a mission in April 2004 left three of his friends dead, Row decided to do something to help veterans in the area. As a result, he started a not-for-profit organization called Songs4Soldiers.
In past years, Row and his band, Where’s Charlie, have hosted an annual fundraiser at Tiny’s Pub & Grill in Columbia called “Tiny’s Fest.” They have since decided to expand this idea to cater to a larger audience.
From 4 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, Row and Songs4Soldiers will host a benefit concert for veterans in the Market Place shopping square in Columbia.
“Last year was our biggest event yet, and we raised $15,000 for a local teen who was battling testicular cancer,” Row said.
He has high hopes for this year’s event, including several different bands, vendors and other attractions.
“I knew in order to make this successful, I had to become extremely organized and legitimate,” Row said.
He went through the process of getting his organization recognized as a not-for-profit corporation.
From there, the help just started flowing in. Sponsors began taking Row more seriously once they saw he was certified. Some of the sponsors for the upcoming concert include George Weber Chevrolet, Market Place, Bud Light, Ameren and more.
Friends and others in the community offered to help Row organize all aspects of the event. Everything has taken off from there, he said.
“I’ve really put my whole heart into this,” Row said. “The concept has caught on so well, and everyone’s volunteering to help.”
The concert will include performances by The Honey, Superjam, Super Majik Robots and Where’s Charlie.
The event will open at 4 p.m., and include the beginning bands along with various guest speakers.
“Part of our message is about working together, so this will help embody that,” Row said. “We’re preaching unity with this organization.”
Everything about working on this project has been positive, Row said, and everyone is benefitting from it.
“The positive feelings that have come from working on some- thing so cool and so special have spilled over into every aspect of my life,” Row said. “From being a father to working all day – I just feel so much more purposeful.”
All profits from the concert will be going to veterans. Row will choose candidates to benefit from the proceeds, but he is waiting to see how much money is raised first before he can make any promises to them.
“We are going to have four St. Louis veterans who are combat vets from Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said. “I say that not with any disrespect to other wars, but I really feel more at home helping people who have been in situations like I’ve been in.”
The money will go to basic needs veterans may have around the house, such as car or roof repairs. Everything will be videotaped, and all the videos will be on the Songs4Soldiers website so people can see where the money is going.
Admission to the concert is $10 per person; children 12 years old and under are free.
Row said he is looking forward to the turnout and seeing the community come together for a great cause.
“All we need now is nice weather,” he said with a laugh.