Patients at Community Regional Medical Center felt like they had “two tickets to paradise” when singer, Eddie Money visited the 9th floor neuroscience unit and 6th floor Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center at the downtown hospital before his Dec. 2 concert at the Tower Theatre in Fresno. A portion of the proceeds from Money's acoustic "Very Special Christmas Show," benefited the Dan Brown Legacy Fund.
Encore, a group of philanthropic young professionals, helped create the Dan Brown Legacy Fund to honor the late coach's fight against brain cancer. The fund helps support the Central California Neuroscience Institute at Community Regional – a place where patients have access to treatment for diseases and disorders ranging from epilepsy to brain tumors to Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Brown who coached 12 seasons with Fresno State, spent two years battling a brain tumor, driving back and forth to the Bay Area for treatments even as he continued on the football field. He died in March 2009 at the age of 50, leaving behind his wife Mindy, six children and four grandchildren.
Encore set a goal of raising $250,000 by the end of this year's football season and had reached $200,000 by the Nov. 27 Fresno vs. Idaho game dedicated to Dan Brown. Dr. Tanya Warwick, medical director of Community Regional's stroke program, and Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, chief of neurology for UCSF, accepted a check from the group on the rain-soaked football field that day.
Vincent Ricchiuti, a former Fresno State volunteer coach who helped found Encore, said he was excited to see the turnout and how much the game meant to Brown's family. "There were 56 family members at the game. His brothers and sisters came in from all over – from Alaska and the Philippines even," he said.
Ricchuiti says other organizations have generously helped the cause with the Pardini family donating use of their banquet facility and catering services for 550 people who came to a pre-Thanksgiving fundraising event. He said KMJ radio has been helping get the word out, running public service announcements asking people to text "Brown" to 85944 to make a $10 donation to the Dan Brown Legacy Fund. And Fresno Judge Jon Kapetan helped involve Money, who was hospitalized with neurological problems in the late 1990s, in the effort.
"Eddie Money kept telling all the nurses in the hospital 'There's a special place in heaven for you.' I really appreciated that," said Dr. Warwick. She was invited on stage with the rock singer at his concert to help explain the fundraising aims.
“There are a lot of neurological illnesses in the Valley, but we don’t get as much care as people on the coast because of shortage of resources and experts in the Valley. The goal of the Dan Brown Fund is to equalize things and give people access, so people don’t have to travel to the coast or LA," Dr. Warwick said. "I did see people get their phones out during the concert to text and give."
Ricchuiti vowed to keep on raising money so others with brain or spine injuries or diseases can stay close to home for treatment. "By no mean is this ending after the football season," he pledged.
This story was reported by Katie Whitney and Erin Kennedy. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.