Band’s last concert in Kent aims to educate, inspire

Kelly Petryszyn

Final Kent performance to raise money for M Star Foundation

Manager Kevin Grace wanted to make rock band Red Sun Rising’s last concert in Kent different than the rest.

“A show’s a show,” the junior exploratory major said. “We got to make money. What else can we do besides a show?”

Grace learned that Emmaleigh Foster, singer from the band A Fair Verona, has worked with the M Star Foundation, which prompted him to do a benefit concert.

The M Star Foundation is close to home for Grace. The foundation began in memory of Michelle Sanderbeck, who was Grace’s classmate at Medina High School. Sanderbeck died in a car accident in 2006 when she was 15 years old, according to the foundation’s Web site. She was riding in a car with four other people to get ice cream when the car skidded out of control and flipped over, lodging the car against a stone wall and taking Michelle’s life. The driver was a 16-year-old who had only had his license for one month.

“It’s usually the best ones that are taken,” Debbie Sanderbeck, Michelle’s mother, said. She described Michelle as always smiling and trying to help people, adding that Michelle brought joy to the family.

“Her talk was even a laugh,” she said. The way she talked was with huge giggles and a smile.

“She was the center of my heart,” Michelle’s father Ray Sanderbeck said. Now that she’s gone, he said his candle is dimmer.

The Sanderbecks created the foundation because of how Michelle died, Debbie said. The driver had a lack of experience, and the Sanderbecks want to prevent other parents from going through a similar tragedy.

The foundation aims to keep teens safe on the road, Ray said.

Ray pushed to get legislation passed so drivers under 17 years old can have only one passenger who is not a relative in the car. Also, it prevents drivers younger than 17 years old from driving between midnight and 6 a.m. without a parent present.

For each added passenger in the car, the likelihood of an accident increases, Debbie said. Their hope is that the law will help reduce car accidents among teenagers.

It didn’t take much convincing for Grace to talk the band into doing a benefit concert for the M Star Foundation.

“They were really down for it,” he said. “They lost friends to accidents. (They) thought, why not do something about it?”

Grace said Ray’s perseverance inspired him to support the foundation.

“What really got me and the band was for him to actually go to the governor and got the law changed,” he said. “It just showed how ambitious he is.”

The M Star Foundation receives “unbelievable support” from donations, Medina High School and other local fundraisers, Debbie said.

“It makes your heart feel good that people care,” she said.

Those who want to make a donation can light a candle on M Star’s Web Site for Michelle or in honor of someone they miss.

“It’s not the amount of the donation; it’s the thought,” Ray said, adding it warms his heart to see people donating.

The concert is at 9:30 p.m. tonight at J.B.’s under the Brewhouse in Kent. Red Sun Rising is playing with Silence So Loud and A Fair Verona. One dollar from every $6 ticket will go to the M Star Foundation.

Debbie will speak at the concert to tell Michelle’s story and talk about the foundation.

Grace said hearing the speech will educate students to be safe on the road.

“When you hear the story, it grabs you,” said Grace, who still remembers Ray’s speech at Medina High School. “… I want to raise money for it but also have someone speaking and remind students.”

Through the M Star Foundation, the impact of Michelle’s life can still be seen.

“My daughter always wanted to make a difference in someone’s life,” Ray said. “I’m trying to walk in her footsteps and make a difference for her.”

Contact student affairs reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].