Streaming at facebook.com/concertforautismcoachellavalley October 16th & 17th at 6 p.m. & 18th at 2 p.m. Presented Virtually by Franklin Loan Center. Proceeds to Benefit the Desert Autism Foundation
By Noe Gutierrez
For music communities around the world, 2020 has become the “do what you can” year when it comes to live music and entertainment. At the heart of the Concert for Autism, now in its 13th year, has been live music performances. 2020 will be no different as event organizer Josh Heinz has once again mobilized Coachella Valley artists to present pre-recorded live performances in lieu of the two-day live event. Scheduled to appear are Poisonous Dwellers of the Desert featuring Mario Lalli, Robbie Krieger, Sean Wheeler and Vince Meghrouni, John Garcia and the Band of Gold, Slipping Into Darkness, The Hellions, Throw the Goat, Dali’s Llama, Whiskey & Knives, Instigator, Empty Seat, Michael Keeth, Rick Shelley, Yovés, Courtney Chambers, Vinny Berry and Josh and Linda Heinz to name a few. A full list of performers is available at concertforautism.com.
In the United States, the most recent data shows that about 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. This latest data highlights the ongoing need for timely and accessible developmental assessments, educational supports, treatment and services for persons with ASD and their families in the Coachella Valley.
Using the marvel of technology, the Concert for Autism will go on October 16-18, 2020 via Facebook Live and will raise funds for families coping with the challenges of having a child on the Autism spectrum. You can donate anytime via PayPal at the following email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
CV Weekly spoke with Josh Heinz about this year’s event.
CVW: What are some of the favorable benefits of holding a benefit online and during a pandemic?
Heinz: “The positive is that we have the technology to do something instead of nothing. In a typical year I would have spent the last 3-5 months designing, planning and organizing with the close knit team of production volunteers that are always so gracious to lend their talents to the event. I would have also spent any time that I wasn’t at my day job on the phone, approaching sponsors, visiting businesses and trying to get donations for our silent auction and raffle portion of the show. That all takes a lot of time and work. Obviously, it isn’t a typical year, but I’d do all that hard work in a second if COVID-19 didn’t exist.”
CVW: The Desert Autism Foundation does so much to help families raising a child with autism by making therapies more affordable. What kept you focused on keeping the benefit going this year?
Heinz: “I almost didn’t do it. My line of thinking was that this is a tough time for everyone, so I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask people for donations. But the truth is that the Desert Autism Foundation, and those kids who benefit from the therapies they help underwrite, still need financial help and probably now more than ever. I had to remind myself that anything we can raise helps. It is all worth it.”
CVW: Franklin Loan Center is your presenting sponsor this year and are consistently involved in many community support opportunities throughout the valley. What can you share about President and CEO Walter Neil?
Heinz: “We feel fortunate that Walter Neil at Franklin Loan Center heard about the event and was happy to come on board as this year’s presenting sponsor. Because he has so many employees dealing with the challenges of raising children on the Autism spectrum, he wanted to support it. We are very grateful for his generosity. To go along with that, we had someone who saw a piece I did with Patrick Evans on Eye on the Desert last week about the concert and they made a nice contribution. That was really cool. I am always so appreciative of the media outlets like CBS2 Eye on the Desert, Tracy Dietlin, Phil Lacombe, Robert Chance, Bobby Taffolla and everyone at Coachella Valley Weekly, Todd ‘TK’ Killiam and the Alpha Media radio stations and so many others that help us get the word out about the benefit every year. You never know exactly how that is going to touch someone, and in this case it did. I’m very thankful for that.”
CVW: What will you miss most about the in-person event?
Heinz: “Certainly, with in person events we could raise more money, with the raffles, silent auctions, door charge, donations, etc. But I think the thing I am going to miss this year is the camaraderie between all of our family, friends and volunteers that donate their time to make each benefit happen. Each year you get excited about working together to pull this thing off. So many people that work behind the scenes. I’m going to miss hanging out with them for a few days trying to pull it off. Who are those wonderful people? They deserve mention. In no particular order (and I apologize if I miss anyone): all of Linda’s family, my family, Jeff Mazer, Greg and Laura Little, Doug Phillips, Ming Bob, Marcus and Chelsea Sugarbritches, Misty and Chris Hogan, Armando Flores, Lisa Thomas, Martin Barrera, Brandon Henderson, Jeff and Robin Mayer, Mitch Kettering, Steven and Tonya Omeliantschuk, Rob Peterson, Troy and Caleb Whitford, Michael Anthony, Juanita Marie and the Coachella Valley Autism Society, Randy Corti and the Desert Autism Foundation and Julie Dixon and the staff of Tack Room Tavern. These are just a few of the wonderful people that have helped us pull this off over the past few years. I’ll miss spending time with them.”
CVW: I’m sure you’ve been able to preview some of the performances already sent you. What are some you’re excited for people to watch?
Heinz: “I’ve seen all of them except two. I’m excited for all of them! I can’t wait to share them. Everyone has sent quality sets. You will see bands doing things they’ve never done before. You will see artists sharing with you songs as if you are just sitting alone with them. It’s really special. I can’t express enough thanks for these musicians putting in the time and effort to do these videos for the benefit. It speaks volumes for our music scene. Obviously, nothing can replace the feeling you get seeing music in a live environment, but everyone has really stepped it up and captured great performances that will remind all of us of the wonderfully diverse, talented and special music scene we have here in the Coachella Valley.”
CVW: After 13 years of the Concert for Autism, what are your overall thoughts of what you all have accomplished?
Heinz: “It’s been an amazing journey from doing a one night show at The Red Barn with four bands to doing what we did last year, several events at multiple venues that included Coachella Valley Brewery, The Hood Bar and Pizza and the main event at Tack Room Tavern. It was over 40 different musical acts performing for one cause for one week and that meant so much. If you told me that this is what it would lead to during the first, second or even third one, I never would have thought it possible. Who could have known? Just today Linda was talking with someone who brought up the number of kids we’ve been able to help through our benefit. And it gave us a moment of pause. When you are in the middle of putting it all together, it’s not that you lose sight of that, but you are so busy trying to make it work that the simplicity of the idea gets cloudy. At the end of the day, we love making music. We love seeing and experiencing music by the talented people in this community. And to have all these talented musicians come together to donate their time to this cause, you feel so passionate about, it really is amazing. We are so grateful. Though we aren’t able to have it as we normally would, we are still so appreciative to have the response we’ve had from the music community to do this virtually. Here is hoping we can all get together in person next year to do the 14th annual benefit!”
*Line up is subject to change