Remembering Sahara: Events organized to benefit pediatric brain tumor research

Sunday, June 3, 2012
Shannon Aldridge, front, prepares to start the race last year. (Submitted photo)

Rick Springfield remembers Sahara Aldridge as someone it was hard not to connect with. The Grammy-winning musician will perform a benefit concert following next month's Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk. Both events will benefit pediatric brain tumor research in memory of Sahara Aldridge.

Aldridge passed away on Nov. 5, 2007, at the age of 13 after a 17-month battle with a brainstem glioma, a malignant brain tumor with no cure.

"She captivated everyone," Springfield said.

This is the third year for the Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk, which will take place at Kiwanis Park at 8 a.m. July 21. The funds raised from this event will benefit the pediatric brain tumor research program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University.

"I don't want to see another set of parents go through what Amy and I went through," said Shannon Aldridge, Sahara's father.

Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk last year gathered nearly 600 participants.

According to Aldridge, this event is right up Sahara's alley.

"She always wanted to help other people," Aldridge said. "She is at the forefront of our motivation to do this."

Aldridge said they had about 325 participants for the first event in 2010. Last year 562 people participated and raised more than $9,000. This turnout resulted in Hoops for Life being named the biggest race in Southeast Missouri in 2011.

"People came out on a very hot day and supported our cause," Aldridge said. "We were blown away by that."

This year he is hoping to attract 600 or more participants and raise between $10,000 and $20,000. However, Aldridge said he would love to raise $21,000.

"You need to set lofty goals to be successful," Aldridge said.

The organization recently obtained certified not-for-profit organization status, which Aldridge said means they are a legitimate cause.

"When you reach that status, you are with the big dogs at that point," Aldridge said.

For the first time the organization will hold a benefit concert following the 5K Run/Walk. Springfield will be the inaugural performer for the concert.

"He is the perfect person to be in the first concert because he was Sahara's favorite," Aldridge said.

Aldridge said Springfield's friendship with his family began by accident. At the age of 5, Sahara attended one of Springfield's concerts with her mother, Amy Aldridge. He randomly picked them out of the audience and brought them on stage.

Springfield's 2008 album "Venus in Overdrive" featured three songs written about Sahara: "Saint Sahara," "God Blinked (Swing it, Sister)" and "Oblivious."

"She infiltrated our hearts," Springfield said.

Springfield is no stranger to Cape Girardeau. In 2006 he performed a benefit concert at the Show Me Center to help Sahara's family with medical bills. He also performed at Buckner Brewing Co. in 2008 to benefit Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship.

"I feel like I connect with her every time I do something like this," Springfield said.

The concert will begin at 8:30 p.m. following an opening ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets for the concert are on sale now and can be ordered by calling the River Campus box office 651-2265 or online at www.rivercampusevents.com.

ajones@semissourian.com

388-3654

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