The show, called “Rock to Defeat ALS,” is the result of efforts by Chris Bergmann, guitarist for the hard rock trio (and benefit headliners) Spectris.
Bergmann’s wife Karen has worked for the Valley Regional Hospital medical practice of Dr. Mary Joyce for the past 15 years. Karen frequently spoke to Chris of Dr. Steve Meersman, who was part of a Claremont surgical practice until he was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease in 2005.
Upon learning of his ALS, Meersman moved back to Fort Collins, Colorado, where he died in April 2007.
“It affected that whole community [at Valley Regional] very deeply,” Chris explained, “and Karen said it would be great if someone could do a benefit.”
“We took it from there, and it’s been about a year in the works.”
Meersman kept an Internet diary from the time he learned of his condition until his death. The “blog” provided a moment-to-moment chronicle of Meersman’s final months battling his illness, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
His courage was more than remarkable. By the time ALS had finally claimed him, he’d completely lost the use of his legs, and all but ten percent of his hands.
Yet he never stopped sharing his experience with others.
For the last seven months of his life, a Colorado videographer captured his deteriorating condition on film. The entire “Meersman Experience” is archived on the http://www.onwingedfeet.com web site. Its many entries are a testament to Dr. Meersman’s incredible resilience in the face of a condition that he knew would ultimately kill him.
Early on, Meersman likened his experience to a nightmare taken from a Stephen King novel. “Then you find out that there is no treatment, no way to reverse it and no one is ever cured. I am okay with all that now,” he wrote in August 2005. “But it does get to me at times. I hope they find a treatment and a cure, so victims in the future don’t have to experience all this.”
To organize a benefit show, Bergmann put out a general call on his MySpace page, and the response was immediate. “Stonewall responded within ten minutes of posting the bulletin,” he says. Chris and the power trio’s front man, Josh Parker, are long-time friends.
Within a few days, the lineup was complete, with power rockers Eden’s Lie, the Gravity Road Band (formerly Iron Box, they have two new members and a new name), and 84 Sheepdog, a Walpole-area band featuring ex-members of Ingrid’s Ruse and the Highball Heroes.
“I had settled on five bands,” says Chris, until the drummer of the Manchester-based band Dear Anyone contacted him. “He wrote me an impassioned email. His father passed away from ALS five or six years ago. They’re going to kick off the show.”
He calls their music “young and angst-y,” and he’s most impressed with their commitment to the cause. “They have all by themselves gathered all kinds of things for the raffle” to be held at Saturday’s show. “Dinners for two at Margaritas, a free massage, a gift card from an unbelievable bakery in Hanover – he’s really busting it out.”
Rock 99 radio personality Chris Garrett will emcee the show, and the Dartmouth radio station has also worked hard to make the show a success. Local rock station Q-106 also contributed to the performance, as well as Newport country station WCFR.
The all-day concert, which starts at noon, will primarily benefit the ALS Association of Northern New England, with a portion of the proceeds going to a college fund for Dr. Meersman’s three children.
Tickets are $10.00, and Bergmann says that anyone who wants to help out but can’t make the show can make a contribution through http://www.myspace.com/rtda, or by contacting the ALS Association of Northern New England through their web site – http://webnne.alsa.org.