Screwy Louie’s to host ALS benefit concert tomorrow

Ben Plassard

When Gregg Driggs’ father was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he never imagined that his father’s battle with the fatal disease would turn into his own personal crusade.

Driggs didn’t even know what ALS was until his father’s diagnosis.

“I talked to the ALS people that helped take care of my father and saw how much they did for him,” Driggs said. “I learned about the disease and knew I wanted to help.”

Driggs now has his chance to help as the organizer of “Battle for ALS,” a benefit concert being held tomorrow night at Screwy Louie’s in downtown Kent.

The concert features five bands plus the Kent State Dance Team, all performing for free, with all proceeds from the concert being split between the ALS chapter of Northeast Ohio and the ALS of Nevada, where Driggs’ father, Chuck West, resided when he passed away.

The concert is more than just a fundraiser for Driggs, who said the show is a way of helping to raise money to combat ALS and to give publicity to a disease that takes a back seat to cancer and AIDS.

According to The ALS Association of Ohio, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, attacks the nervous system, eventually leading to muscle failure and paralysis. There is no known cause, treatment or cure for the disease and over 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS every year.

Sherrill Moyer, president and CEO of the northeast Ohio chapter of the ALS Association, said the disease is totally unbiased and can impact any age and gender. Moyer also said that a family’s expenses can become astronomical when a member is diagnosed, thus the mission of the ALS Association.

“Our primary focus is to provide programs and services to help patients and their families,” Moyer said. “We offer strong support to the families of ALS victims and hopefully, someday, we can find a cure.”

The ALS Association said the life expectancy of an ALS patient is usually three to five years from the time of diagnosis. About 20 percent of ALS patients will live five or more years, with 10 percent surviving more than 10 years. Driggs’ experience differs from these statistics.

Driggs said the disease struck his father quickly. West was diagnosed in March 2004 and passed away in December 2005. Driggs said his father went downhill so quickly that he was caught off-guard when he died.

“I was scared of the disease at first, and I did not want to go visit him,” Driggs said of his father. “When I did, I was surprised by how well he could get along. He could communicate but only through a speaking machine. His mind was fine, but he couldn’t move or feed himself.”

That is what ALS does. It takes away all motor skills and functions, everything except the mind, Moyer said. It leaves the victim helpless, and leaves the victims family helpless as well.

This is where Driggs and his concert come into play. The goal of the show is to raise $2,500 for ALS victims and their families. Driggs has already received $800 in corporate donations. Screwy’s promoter Rob Paden donated the venue for the evening, with Screwy’s not making any profit whatsoever on the night. Paden called the concert a wonderful thing and said he would not be hesitant about benefit shows at Screwy’s in the future.

The concert itself features five local bands, all ranging in ages and experience.

The Soldiers of Yesterday are one of the highlights of the show according to Driggs, and not just because his son is the drummer. Their friendships with local bands such as Asleep and Test Pilot made finding bands to fill the bill easy, and Driggs attributed this to the Soldiers of Yesterday.

“Without them, it would have been a struggle,” Driggs said. “We had to turn several bands away because the line-up was filled so quick.”

The Soldiers of Yesterday is made of four Theodore Roosevelt High School students. The band has played at the now-defunct Odeon as well as all over Kent. Drummer Nate Driggs said the show will have more meaning due to the fact his grandfather died of ALS.

Youngstown rock group Asleep will be pulling double duty the night of the show, as they will play The Orange Street in Akron and then come and headline the benefit show in Kent. Jerry Hanhold of Asleep said the concert is a good thing and he has no problems playing for free for such a good cause.

Kent ska group The Mulligans, Cleveland rock band Signal 30, and Wadsworth rockers Test Pilot will round out the show. The Kent State Dance Team will perform original routines between sets.

Driggs said while the main goal is to raise money, he really wants to make people aware of the disease. Driggs said he wants to make the show a bigger event in the future, hopefully playing bigger venues with bigger crowds.

“So much attention gets paid to AIDS and cancer,” Driggs said. “I really think this disease is as bad as those. You want to protect your family, and it’s frustrating when you can’t.”

The Battle for ALS is tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Screwy’s. Tickets are $10.

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Ben Plassard at [email protected].