Support continues with pair of benefits

Monday, December 4, 2006
Mary Beth Vollink rehearsed as a China doll at the Academy of Dance Arts for the Dec. 9 dance program called "13th Hour" to benefit Sahara Aldridge and Toys for Tots. (Fred Lynch)

The Aldridge family has already been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people of Cape Girardeau.

"It just goes on and on," Amy Aldridge said. "People have been so good to us."

Since the 12-year-old Sahara Aldridge was diagnosed with brain-stem cancer this summer, Sahara, mother Amy and father Shannon have received an outpouring of emotional and financial support from locals and people living hundreds of miles from Southeast Missouri -- people they've never met and may never meet in person.

An Oct. 14 benefit held at the Cape Girardeau Elks Lodge raised thousands to help pay for Sahara's treatment and welcomed the family home for the first time since Sahara began receiving treatment in Houston this summer. The next day, the Mike Renick Band and the Intention performed at a benefit concert organized by her teachers for Sahara at Capaha Park.

"It was just unbelievable the amount of people that were there," Amy said. "It was kind of like a welcoming home for us."

Other benefits followed: special showings of the movie "Grease" at the Town Plaza cinema, local woman Frances Dooley selling "Hope for Hoops" bracelets, the Southeast Missouri State University print shop putting together a cookbook for sale in the University Book Store, donations from the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, a guitar signed by members of the rock band Disturbed raffled by P-Mac Music and others.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, the local Academy of Dance Arts will perform a program called "13th Hour" to benefit Sahara at Central Junior High School. Dancers will play the part of toys in a toy store that wake up and play.

But the biggest benefit is yet to come. On Friday, musician Rick Springfield will roll into Cape Girardeau to perform his "Concert for Sahara." Springfield has known Sahara since she was 5 years old, and when he found out about her condition he posted Sahara's story on his Web site, encouraging fans to donate money and spiritual support.

Amy Aldridge said the family has received support from Springfield fans throughout the world. The family is eagerly awaiting the concert, she said.

"We can't wait," Amy Aldridge said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

Springfield said he had planned a benefit concert for Sahara since he heard about her illness, but decided to make a go of it in Cape Girardeau because Sahara has always dreamed of him playing in her hometown.

On the day of the concert, the restaurant Blimpies will donate 10 percent of its sales to Sahara's cause.

The "Concert for Sahara" will be accompanied by a silent auction, featuring items like shirts worn by Springfield in music videos, autographed posters, rare recordings, autographed original lyric sheets and a script from the TV soap opera "General Hospital" and others.

Show Me Center marketing director Shannon Buford said the benefit concert recently went in the black for Sahara, and between 1,000 and 1,500 people have purchased tickets for the event so far. And as the concert approaches, he expects the numbers to rise quickly.

Neither the Show Me Center nor Springfield will profit from the concert.

The money raised probably won't reach the estimated $250,000 medical costs for Sahara's treatment, and the family's travel expenses on top of that. The Aldridges aren't sure how much has been raised so far, but they're amazed by the generosity.

335-6611, extension 182

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