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Percussionist Todd Roach, left, and stringed-instrumentalist Mac Ritchey are opening for The Steel Wheele in a benefit concert at the BF Opera House.

The Arts

For her dad, for a cause

Karin Mallory puts together benefit concert for brain cancer research

BELLOWS FALLS—Since Karin Mallory’s father, Ted, was diagnosed with the aggressive Glioblastoma brain cancer in February 2014, her aim has been to spread awareness of the illness the same way cancer spreads through a body: divide and multiply.

From her Walpole, N.H., home, Mallory began researching brain cancer and found that because of its rarity, as compared with other types of cancer, funding for research is limited. (The National Cancer Institute’s estimates claim brain cancer diagnoses only make up 1.4 percent of all new 2014 cancer cases.)

But, as Mallory began connecting with others on Internet forums, and in her local community, she kept finding people who either have brain cancer, or who had lost a loved one to the illness.

“Brain cancer is more prevalent than one would think, it supposedly being ‘rare,’” Mallory says.

Mallory shares what she learned about brain cancer’s limited treatment options: “With brain cancer you never get it all. The tumor’s ‘fingers’ go out into the brain tissue,” and, because of the sensitive nature of the brain, greater care and delicacy is required in rooting out the tumor.

Also, she says, “the blood-brain barrier makes treatment tricky business.”

The blood-brain barrier protects the brain, preventing traditional cancer-treatment methods from reaching the organ. According to the National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate for those with brain cancer is only 33.4 percent.

As Mallory’s awareness increased, she wanted to continue to reach others, and was searching for an effective medium from which to deliver the message. One idea stood out: music ― specifically, a benefit concert.

“I originally thought to have the concert in Connecticut, where my dad lives,” Mallory said, but she changed her mind because, as she explained, “my dad has raised a lot of money for people” in his community for a variety of causes, and she says he “wouldn’t want all that local attention.”

Plus, she decided Vermont was “a better choice for success” with her many connections here.

Mallory mentioned her friendship with Ray Massucco, the local attorney who organizes the Roots On The River music festival, held every summer in Bellows Falls. For the last three years, Mallory has offered her professional services to the event: “I’ve been the sort of ‘staff massage therapist’ to the musicians,” she says.

When she asked Massucco, he “immediately agreed to help,” Mallory says. “I have the energy, but Ray has the contacts and the know-how” to put on a concert of this size, she adds. “Ray is doing this free-of-charge. He’s donating his services and his connections. He was really helpful.”

At last year’s Roots On The River, Mallory approached the four-piece Virginia-based band, Steel Wheels, to ask if they would headline the concert, and they agreed. Mallory describes their sound as “Americana music” and “accessible to a lot of people,” noting “they huddle around a microphone” when they sing.

Wanting to include local flavor into the line-up, Mallory secured local musician Todd Roach, known for his innovative drumming style, to open for Steel Wheels. Roach will perform with Boston’s Mac Ritchey. Mallory says, “Mac will play the oud, a Middle Eastern string instrument."

Mallory noted an unusual addition to Roach and Ritchey’s performance: a professional hula-hooper.

“There’s this woman —€• Beth Lavinder €— who hula-hoops at the Roots On The River festival. James McMurtry invited her to perform on-stage while he played,” at the festival, Mallory says, adding Lavinder is “donating her services, and she’s coming from North Carolina."

The concert, at the Bellows Falls Opera House, is on March 28 and begins at 7:30 p.m. But if you don’t already have a ticket, you won’t be getting in.

The show is sold out.

“A lot of people didn’t heed my warning when I said, ‘I’m going to sell this show out,’” Mallory says.

Last summer, Mallory says she sold $10,000 worth of raffle tickets, and “it offsets 100 percent of the concert’s production costs. This way, 100 percent of the proceeds of the concert go to Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.”

Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure [ABC2] “is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that partners with leading entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers to find a cure for brain tumors and brain cancer,” according to its website, abc2.org. The organization reports, “Since 2001, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure has provided more than $20 million in research funding to highly qualified research investigators and physician-scientists from 46 institutions."

Mallory learned about ABC2 through her friendship with Mark Green, the Walpole resident who performed philanthropic and development work with a variety of schools in Vermont and New Hampshire. He died of brain cancer on Feb. 27.

Mallory says of Green: “When my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer, I sat with my long-time friend Mark in a parking lot and cried with him. He had been diagnosed 2 1/2 years earlier, and when diagnosed, he began working for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure to help raise money for brain cancer research.

“Mark was a spectacular human being who touched the world, and everyone he came into contact with with great authenticity. He is the reason that all money raised via the benefit concert that you all are headlining will be donated to ABC2, now, in memory and celebration of him.”

For those who waited too long to buy tickets to the event, all is not lost. The concert will stream live on Concert Window, a pay-per-view Website that streams live concerts. Mallory says, “sales from Concert Window are split. Concert Window takes 20 percent, the artist takes 35 percent, and ABC2 takes 45 percent.”

“You can sit in your bed and watch a live, high-quality concert that’s professionally filmed using two different cameras,” Mallory suggests.

For those who want a more communal concert-going experience, Mallory says: “People can go to Popolo to watch a live stream of the concert.”

The Bellows Falls restaurant is donating a portion of the evening’s food and beverage sales to ABC2. Mallory adds, “There’s no admission charge. You can eat dinner and watch the concert on their big TV."

Meanwhile, across the street at the Opera House, Mallory will escort the guest of honor at the March 28 event.

“My dad will be sitting in the front row,” Mallory says, adding, “luckily, he’s still doing well. With Glioblastoma, it’s not always the case."

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Originally published in The Commons issue #296 (Wednesday, March 11, 2015). This story appeared on page B1.

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