Rocking out for a cause

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To support the Wheelchair Foundation, a group of local college students held their sixth "Rock the Block" benefit concert and dance party Friday, Sept. 28 in the Reams’s parking lot on University Parkway.

DJs Kendall and FUJ donated their time and talents spinning on the main stage to pack the spacious venue, while a slideshow recycled images of previous trips the humanitarian group had taken to bring wheelchairs to the needy in South America. Bands Ivy League, Love You Long Time, Victim Effect and Side Dish played on an alternate stage, appealing to the spectators less likely to bump and grind.

The Rock the Block organization has accumulated quite a crowd of supporters over the few years since conception. Student volunteers held donation baskets, sold T-shirts, and passed around complementary fortune cookies. The event was sponsored by a multitude of local businesses including Ream’s, Smart Cookie, Black Jack, Alpine Village, Costa Vida, Panda Express and Schooled Magazine.

Rock the Block was initiated a few years ago by Eric Chambers and Steve Cramer from BYU and Brian McEwen from UVSC. The three young men were not in attendance Friday night; they have since passed organization responsibilities on to fellow philanthropists Janessa Erekson, Meegan Small and Lindsey Petersen. McEwen and Chambers still continue a personal competition each year to beat each other’s donations.

In the midst of the commotion, one of McEwen’s friends approached Erekson with a blank check and McEwen on the phone. "He wants to know how much Eric donated," he said. Each of them donated well over $250. 

"It costs $75 for each wheelchair, and the Wheelchair Foundation requires a minimum total of $28,000, so it’s quite an effort," explained Janessa. "We’ve been very successful in the past. There’s obviously a positive response from the students, and the local businesses are generous with the cause."

Once the group has enough money raised, a few of the leaders fly to the site where the wheelchairs will be distributed. "We all pay our own expenses and all of our time is donated along the way. We even buy the T-shirts just like everyone else," Janessa said.

In April 2009, the Rock the Block group is heading to Bolivia. "It’s a lot of work, but so gratifying to see their faces when we give them the wheelchairs. There’s nothing like it," Janessa said.

Rock the Block is hosted once per semester, but the group holds smaller fundraisers throughout the school year. On Monday Oct. 8, Panda Express on University Avenue donated 20 percent of all sales to the foundation. Students interested in helping out with the next Rock the Block on April 11, 2008 can visit their group site on or email [email protected]. T-shirts are constantly for sale, and the ever-expanding cause is always searching for additional support.