The 6th Annual Concert for Autism – Why We Do It

By | May 2, 2013 at 10:17 am | No comments | Columns, Feature Stories, Music

By: Jack St. Clair

“I have to say that each year we have done this I am even more amazed at how many
people work hard to make it happen,” said Josh Heinz, singer/songwriter/guitarist from
Blasting Echo. He is talking about the annual Concert for Autism that will be held at
The Hood in Palm Desert on Saturday May 11th. He started the event in 2008 with his
former band, Dufreign, and since continued it when Blasting Echo formed the following
year. This marks the 6th consecutive year it has been held and he insists that though he
came up with idea, he won’t take sole credit. “It wouldn’t happen without the generosity
and support of many others. It has become something meaningful and special to all
those involved.”

Heinz has a son with Autism, as do three other members of Blasting Echo. Drummer
Armando Flores, guitarist Jeff Fortson and keyboardist Linda Lemke also have sons
with Autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s speech and
language development, motor skills and social behaviors. The CDC says it is now found
in 1 in 50 children. It is a spectrum disorder which can run from mild to severe. He
points out that Autism effects each child’s behaviors differently and that it is important
people understand how hard it can be to handle for parents.

It is easy to see why this event means so much to them. They live with this disorder
on a daily basis and it affects all aspects of their lives “We know what it is like to have
children that can’t communicate, have outbursts and meltdowns, repeat the same
random phrases all day long or constantly move around and flap their hands nonstop.
And that’s just a few of their Autistic behaviors,” says Heinz. “In general we know what
is like to not have a normal child. That in itself is heartbreaking. But we have also seen
that early intervention and therapy can make a difference in some cases.”

The concert will be donating proceeds to the Coachella Valley Autism Society and the
Lumpy’s Foundation for Autism. These organizations try to assist families in getting
help for children in the form of speech and occupational therapies, as well as provide
activities and opportunities that families with Autistic children wouldn’t necessarily be
able to take part in.

“My son has benefitted from organizations like the Lumpy’s Foundation,” says Fortson.
He was told that his son may never have meaningful relationships with his parents and
probably have to be institutionalized as an adult. “Their foundation has helped fund co-
pays for speech and occupational therapies that my son has benefitted from. Now my
son can communicate his likes, feelings and desires. Things I was once told would likely
never happen.”

Lemke points out that the Coachella Valley Autism Society offered her a place to meet
other parents dealing with the same thing, and provided a sounding board for ideas
about things that have worked for other families. It also provides activities that these

children wouldn’t get to do. “When my son was first diagnosed I could never take him to
the movies. He would run around the theatre and talk the entire time. CVASA provides
outings such as this where parents can take their kids and everyone is understanding of
their behaviors. Now I can take him to a movie at any time and he behaves. Outings like
movies unaffected families may take for granted, but are a huge achievement for my
son.” As a music educator that teaches primarily Autistic students, she sees the rewards
of special therapies. “When you learn that your child is Autistic it can be crushing. Most
parents never dream that their child might learn to play a musical instrument. It is very
rewarding to be able to give these families something to celebrate as these kids grow in
an ability they never thought possible.”

Therapies for those with Autism are costly and most insurances do not cover them.
“That is one of the reasons we do what we do,” says Heinz. “If we can take our love for
playing music and use it in our little way to help some families that go through we what
have gone through, then why not? We are fortunate to have so many people in music
community that feel the same way.”

Other performers at the event also have deep connections to Autism. Bobby Nichols
and Joe Kidd both have children on the spectrum. And bassist Damian Lautiero of Waxy
has a brother with Autism as well. “I think talking about what we are doing, and why
we do it, is raising much needed awareness,” says Lautiero. “People don’t know how
prevalent this is. For us it is a lot of hard work, but I know it is worth it.”

Lautiero’s passion for the cause has been instrumental in bringing it together. He
has worked with Kevin Swank of CYM Lighting and T&S Rigging to get the stage and
lighting provided for the show. DJ Ray Phillips is also donating sound for the event for a
fourth time. “I could write a thank you list a mile long,” says Heinz. “Certainly those guys
along with The Hood brothers, Brandon Henderson, Tracy and Phil at CV Weekly, Paul
at Desert Arc Attire and Mike and Dave at Xpress Graphics really go above and beyond
for the event. Just as important is the work Linda does in organizing the silent auction
and raffles. We also have to thank the businesses that give, the volunteers and most
importantly the bands!”

Speaking of bands, this year’s benefit has a fantastic line up of bands and musicians:
Blasting Echo, Waxy, Parosella, The Hellions, Bobby Nichols Band, Joe Kidd & The
Gash, Giselle Woo, Michael Keeth, Johnny Elsewhere, Chris Long and two long-time
desert favorites that don’t play often: The Agents and Mighty Jack. During the event
there will be raffles and silent auctions including items and services from: La Quinta
Resort, Musician’s Outlet, Record Alley, Cinemark Theatres, Ernie Ball, Red Carpet Car
Wash, Roc’s Firehouse, Pacifica, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Flemings, Quantum Fitness,
My Gym, The Crab Pot and many, many more.

The concert is from 5pm – 10pm on an outside stage in the The Hood’s parking lot and
is all ages until 10pm. The music continues from 10pm to close inside for those 21 and
over. Donation at the door is $10. Credit cards will be accepted. If you can’t attend but
would like to donate, you may do so on PayPal to concertforautism@hotmail.com. For

more info you can email: blastingecho@hotmail.com or call 760-702-4110

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