Who says celebrity status has to be a bad thing? Rhett Miller of Old 97's is using his name this weekend to raise money and awareness for people who suffer daily from a deadly disease.
The Dallas native, who now lives in New York with his family, is headed back to his hometown for an annual concert that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation each year, which has done remarkable work toward combating cystic fibrosis in the last several decades, thanks in part to people like Miller.
“It has been 10 years of trying to turn this weird thing that I do into something that can help people,” he says. “It makes me feel good to be able to be a part of something that helps people. I mean, I go out and dance around and sing songs that talk about my feelings, so to feel like I can give some sort of concrete aid, to a world that can kind of be a dark place sometimes, is great.”
Miller got involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation more than ten years ago after he learned about the disease from his brother, Ross, whose friend married a woman with cystic fibrosis, or CF.
“It was the most memorable wedding I’ve ever been to,” Ross recalls. “We went to a wedding shower for them and they disappeared for a little bit and then came back outside in a tuxedo and a wedding dress because they didn’t know if Mandy would have another year or another 10 years. Her life expectancy has pretty much always been her age. When she was five her life expectancy was six, when she was 18 her life expectancy was 19, so she has ridden that curve.”
Mandy Elmore is one of 33,000 people in the United States living with CF, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Approximately 1,000 new cases of CF are diagnosed each year.
“Once I learned about cystic fibrosis, I found out she was one of three people in my life who have it,” Ross says.
Cystic fibrosis is considered a rare disease, so it doesn’t get government funding. That means it’s up to individuals to organize and discover new therapies and a lifelong cure. In 2007 Rhett and Ross Miller created the Annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Concert Series to raise money and awareness for the foundation, and to date it has raised more than $100,000. This year is their 10th anniversary concert, and they hope to raise $25,000.
“This concert helps reach a different audience,” says Jessica Hinckle, the development manager of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “Not everyone wants to do a walk or a gala, so this is a really good opportunity to reach music fans. It’s really conducive to the music following we have in Dallas.”
The foundation has helped develop treatments for the disease. “In the '50s the life expectancy wasn’t even five years old,” she says. “Doctors used to just tell people they needed to take their kids home and make them comfortable, and that they would likely never enter kindergarten. Now the life expectancy is 41 years old.”
Rhett says it’s encouraging that he has seen the foundation make a lot of progress. “The prognosis is good every single year,” he says. “We’re getting closer, and the people I know who have it, they really appreciate the time they’ve got. It has really been a huge lesson to me to not get caught up on things.”
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He is also bringing in some serious musical talent for this year’s concert. “I’ve had a lot of great musicians join me over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a lineup as talented as this one,” he points out.
This concert will be a little different than ones in years past. It’ll kick off with a VIP hour with Rhett at 6 p.m. Then at 7 p.m., they’ll open the doors and The O’s will play. After that there will be a songwriter circle song swap, in which Rhett, Cody Canada from Cross Canadian Ragweed, Roger Clyne from the Peacemakers and the Refreshments, and Nikki Lane will all sit on the stage with just their guitars to play each other’s songs and talk about their music.
There will also be a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction and the concert will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Attend the show 6 p.m. Saturday at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, 10261 Technology Blvd E. Tickets are $45 to $100 at gasmonkeybarngrill.com.