'Uplifted' concert for St. Jude Oct. 24

Nick Stroman

Sheriffs from Tazewell and Peoria counties are among those putting their money behind a first-time charity event later this month in Washington.

The first St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital benefit concert, “Uplifted,” is at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Crossroads United Methodist Church, 1420 N. Main.

Ryan Beck, an East Peoria firefighter and St. Jude Memphis to Peoria runner, is organizing and performing at the concert.

Beck said the idea for a concert has been in the works for almost eight years, after Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy came to him with the suggestion.

“We put it on the back burner, and it never really materialized. Then, when I started performing music at Crossroads with Brian Wierenga, we had a small fan club beating the drum for us to do a concert of our own,” Beck said.

Wierenga plays piano, while Beck provides the vocals.

Planning started about six months ago, and Beck said it was a good marriage to do a concert to showcase their songs and also to benefit a good cause.

“It’s a two-and-a-half-hour show. The first set is mostly Brian and I performing our acoustic music. We will also have special guests like a cellist from Peoria Symphony Orchestra and some guest vocalists doing duets,” Beck said.

Three St. Jude families will share their stories onstage, and performance artist Marc Eckel will do a live painting coinciding with two Casting Crowns songs.

Eckel recently toured with Casting Crowns, a popular Christian rock band.

“There will also be a few gospel tunes and four-part harmony songs. We will finish up with praise and worship tunes with a praise band, and everyone in the audience can get involved in the singing,” Beck said.

As a runner for St. Jude Memphis to Peoria for the past nine years and a run coordinator for the past six years, Beck said he is keenly aware of how badly St. Jude needs community support.

“When I first started dating my wife, all of her family was doing the run, so I started. After several years in, I met fantastic family and patients and runners and got sucked into the St. Jude family,” Beck said.

“The people at St. Jude are just unbelievable and amazing. They welcome you with open arms,” Beck added.

Beck said the doctors and nurses at St. Jude are ‘incredibly smart’ and figure out treatments most regular people would not think of to try.

“The strength of the patients, siblings and parents is inspiring after what they go through each day. There are 5-year-olds there who can recite what drugs they are on, and they shouldn’t know this. That’s their reality though,” Beck said.

While the concert is free, Beck said there will be an offering taken during the show.

Thanks to the sponsors for underwriting the event, all of those donations can go directly to the hospital, Beck said.

“It was encouraging to get sponsorships when it’s the first year for the concert. It was a blind step for most of the people,” Beck said.

“Sheriff Robert Huston doesn’t know us from anything, and he just put his money out there based on the word of others it would be a good show and worth the money,” Beck added.

Other sponsors for the benefit concert include John Bearce Suzuki, Washington Community Bank and the Semonis family of East Peoria.

Beck said it is important for people to come out and understand how blessed the community is to have something like the St. Jude Midwest Affiliate in Peoria.

“I think people take for granted the level of care we have here,” Beck said. “We need to educate them that we are blessed and not everyone has this.”

For more information about the St. Jude benefit concert “Uplifted,” visit www.crossroads4all.org.