WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington collaborated with local musicians to produce a Hurricane Florence relief concert honoring the region’s first responders at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater; the concert has so far raised over $500,000.
Event organizer Mook Cahill, who also runs Heart of Wilmington, a nonprofit focused on opiate addiction, said the concert’s success spoke for the Wilmington community’s united struggle since Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina coast over a month ago.
“It’s not just heroin. It’s not just poor children or handicapped people or whatever the cause is. This is the cause that affected everybody in town,” Cahill said. “Events I’ve run in the past — we were looking at five to ten grand, trying to make a little buck to move the nonprofit forward. That’s what I thought was going to happen … They raised $400,000 before we got here today.”
The show took its roots over two weeks ago when Special Assistant to the City Manager Tony McEwen approached members of local bands, including L Shape Lot, Signal Fire, and others about performing at relief concert.
While backstage Saturday night after their performance, lead singer Sean Gregory and bass player Cullen Seward of Signa Fire, discussed their push for a “mashup of artists” who would could represent all of Wilmington.
“More musicians meant more vibes, more energy,” Seward said.
Concert organizers, including the City of Wilmington, 98.3 The Penguin, and Port City Daily, pulled together an eclectic group of some of the region’s favorite bands. L Shape Lot capped a night that opened with The Clams singing bluegrass; the Reggae Responders, a collaboration of Zion Rootz, Signal Fire, DHIM, Elephant Convoy, and Coastal Collective paying tribute to the region’s first responders, and the Port City All Stars, playing a fusion of hip-hop and jazz.
“To give back to [the community] in a time of need and to be able to grow and raise money for the city is the least we can do for a group of people and fans who support us no matter what, all the time,” Gregory said. “To give back is a no-brainer. It means a lot for us to be in a position to do that.”
“This is a great city, and the concert is just a manifestation of the kind of people who live here and the joy and rebuilding that we can create,” Rick Williams of L Shape Lot said.
Wilmington has long built an identity as a music town, and for Mayor Bill Saffo, the city’s ability to unite the community around its local musicians was powerful.
“It gives you chill bumps to see all these folks coming together, having a good time but also raising a lot of money for the community. There’s a good possibility we’ll get half a million dollars today,” Saffo said. “I mean, no one thought we would be able to do that.”
McEwen said that as of Monday morning, roughly $15,000 was raised by attendees dropping cash in buckets at the front entrance, while roughly $500,000 was donated by various commercial entities, including Sun Trust Bank, Planet Fitness, Iron Man Foundation, and the Boston Red Sox organization.
McEwen said that he and Mayor Saffo were on the phone with Wilmington native and former Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon while he was on a plane to Boston to throw out the first pitch for the team’s playoffs match-up with the Houston Astros. Later they learned the Red Sox organization sent a check worth $17,000.
All donations will go through the United Way to local programs focused on emergency shelters, emergency home repairs, and emergency food suppliers, according to McEwen.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@localvoicemedia.com