BLOOMINGTON — Adam Fuller lost his garage in the devastating tornado that swept his hometown of Washington last month, and as a volunteer with the Washington Fire Department he searched the rubble of more damaged homes.
“There weren’t even words. Just every single house was down, every single house,” he said of a city of about 16,000 people that saw about 1,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
But with all the help Washington has received in the wake of the storm, Fuller said morale in the town that defines his childhood remains “pretty good,” and a massive fundraising show Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum is going to help keep it that way.
“I think it’s a great cause, and all the support from everybody is just amazing,” he said as he and several others wearing shirts marked “WFD” made their way through Bloomington’s downtown arena.
The sold-out “Rock to the Rescue Extends a Hand to those in Need” show attracted 7,503 concertgoers and featured REO Speedwagon and Styx — two bands with strong Illinois ties that founded Rock to the Rescue after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — alongside Richard Marx, Ted Nugent, Larry the Cable Guy, Survivor, Head East and Brushville. All proceeds from the event are going to Central Illinois communities affected by the Nov. 17 storms.
Larry the Cable Guy told the audience the event is expected to raise $300,000.
"We will not have an official number until early next week because we are still taking donations online, merchandise is still being sold and the online eBay auction runs until Monday," noted Jenna Fecht, Coliseum marketing and communications manager.
"So it will be well over $300,000 when everything is figured," she added.
“I just wanted to help out,” said Bloomington resident Mallory Dagley before the show began. “It’s great music, and why not go to a concert where 100 percent of the money goes to the victims of the tornado? The music is a bonus, helping out is the number one reason.”
Kevin Williams is a Minonk resident who lost his barn roof during the storms, and his friends’ homes saw even more severe damage. “We’d really like to be there to help, but this is the best way we know how, other than donating to the Red Cross,” he said.
Before the bands began performing, he applauded them for their efforts. “They could be off doing other things, but they’re here doing things for a small community,” Williams said. “I think it’s great.”
Wednesday’s show was made possible not only through the donated talent of high-profile performers, but also through the volunteer support of people throughout the community.
Deb Tallon, a manager at Kohl’s at Eastland Mall, said she and eight other co-workers chose the Rock to the Rescue event as a Kohl’s Associates in Action event, through which they volunteer their time and the company donates money. On Wednesday they handed out programs that they had folded earlier.
“We want to help out our community,” she said. Besides her co-workers in East Peoria, Tallon said she has a relative in Washington whose home was struck by the storm.
Marine Staff Sgt. Jerome Clark and his family were collecting donations for the Peoria-based Toys for Tots. He said the storm damage in the area means his organization will look to serve about 2,000 more children than usual. He hoped to collect two large boxes of toys and plenty of financial contributions from concertgoers.
At the event, Rock to the Rescue volunteers also sold raffle tickets for a signed guitar, and the group is holding a charity auction of rock memorabilia and signed instruments at ebay.com/usr/rocktotherescue.