Songs4Soldiers plans ‘bigger and better’ benefit
After the success of last year’s inaugural Songs4Soldiers benefit concert, founder Dustin Row of Columbia has big plans for this year.
The event has expanded to include many more features than last year.
Songs4Soldiers is a not-for-profit organization that supports local veterans through an annual benefit concert. Since the first concert last September, the organization has really taken off.
“Sponsorship went absolutely through the roof,” Row said.
Last year, Row said they were just “selling an idea,” but now that the community has seen what can come from a grassroots effort, everything will be “bigger and better.”
“We’re adding a five-room bounce house for kids to play in,” Row said.
The S4S crew realized how family-friendly the evening could be and decided to bring in aspects like the bounce house.
Stores in the Columbia Centre plaza, including Marie’s Ice Cream Shoppe and Mokka Café, will have summer treats like ice cream and funnel cakes, along with food served by local restaurants including Tiny’s, Reifschneider’s Grill & Grape, Who Dat’s, Bully’s Smokehouse and Joe Boccardi’s.
Along with the food vendors, live music will be provided by PettyCash Junction, Super Majik Robots, Where’s Charlie? and SuperJam.
“This year, the stage is double in size,” Row said. “The whole back of the stage is an LED video wall, so our platinum and title sponsors will have commercials displayed in between bands.”
Row said if they have good weather and the event is as successful as they’re hoping, they might have to move to a bigger location for the concert in 2015.
“I want to keep it in Columbia,” he said. “That’s part of what makes it so special. I wouldn’t be getting such a good reaction in any other town.”
Row hopes to see the benefit concert and organization continue to grow each year.
“I think we’ve taken all the right steps so far from last year to this year,” he said. “We’re just going to learn each year and improve each year.”
Songs4Soldiers had a donation come in from the Oerter Foundation in Columbia earlier this summer, and the organization is in the process of helping a fifth veteran.
“That will be unveiled at the concert in front of everybody,” he said.
But it doesn’t stop there. Row is dreaming bigger and bigger and looking further down the road.
“Fifteen years from now, I could see us being like our own (Department of Veterans Affairs),” he said.
In the 12 months following last year’s benefit concert, the organization was able to help four local veterans in need and host a Songs4Soldiers “Night at the Ballpark” at Busch Stadium.
They provided an Iraq veteran with a service dog, a Special Forces veteran with dental work, an Iraq veteran with a new used car, and an Afghanistan veteran with baby supplies.
“Though every veteran’s case is different, we’d love to be able to help seven or eight of them in the next year,” he said.
Row said his favorite part of the event is seeing how well everything comes together.
“It’s so awesome to watch all the people who have helped make this a success watch everything happen,” he said. “You don’t get to experience many things like that in your lifetime.”
They’ve been working on this year’s benefit concert preparations since 10 days after last year’s event.
“Our goal as a committee is to plan ahead so much, the day of the show is so much fun and we can enjoy it,” Row said.
This year, the benefit concert will have a rain date.
If the concert cannot take place on Saturday, Sept. 6, because of weather, it will start the following day at 2 p.m. and end at 9 p.m.
Weather permitting, the evening will begin at 4 p.m. on Sept. 6 and will conclude at 11 p.m. in the Columbia Centre plaza outside of Schnucks.
Admission is $10, with kids and veterans admitted for free.
Visit http://songs4soldiersstl.org for more details.