For the past 10 years, the North Shore-based WildFire Band has hosted a Fan Appreciation event to thank the group’s supporters and raise funds for a charity in need.
This year’s night of music and fun will take place at Breakaway on Route 1 North in Danvers Saturday, Sept. 22. Proceeds will benefit The Herren Project, which provides addiction recovery services for those who need to take their first steps toward recovery and sobriety.
For Ken Briana, WildFire’s manager and lead singer, it’s personal. His niece died of an overdose at age 32, leaving behind two young children and a loving, supportive family. “She was in a car accident and a doctor prescribed opioid painkillers. She was soon addicted,” said Briana. An overdose of Fentanyl-laced heroin was the cause of death.
“There is such a stigma associated with drug addiction,” said Briana, adding that his niece, like many of those who become dependent on prescription medication, was a level-headed, responsible mom before the car accident.
“We lose so many people to this terrible disease of addiction. It’s an epidemic,” said Briana, a Saugus High grad. “I couldn’t understand how a good person like my niece could wind up on heroin. I couldn’t understand why well-educated, smart, solid people would choose to take drugs and walk away from their family and kids … Let me tell you, I did so much research. The addiction to this stuff is very, very powerful. Most of us have no idea how deadly this addiction is.” The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health reported that for the first six months of 2018, there were 657 confirmed opioid‐related overdose deaths in the state.
“Every year we choose a new charity to help. Last year it was Shriners Hospital for Children; this year we chose The Herren Project, which was started by Chris Herren, a former professional basketball player who, while a member of the Boston Celtics, became addicted to painkillers prescribed by a doctor and lost everything,” added Briana.
The five-piece WildFire Band, led by Briana and co-vocalist Shirley Gerardi, has been together for a remarkable 19 years. It performs everything from classic rock and R&B covers to songs by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Journey, Evanescence and Lady Gaga.
In addition to WildFire’s performance, Saturday’s celebration will include a celebrity guest appearance by Justin Dean, “the official” Michael Jackson tribute artist; a free photo booth to take pics with your friends and Justin Dean; a dance performance by the FreEMotion LibrEMoción Repertory Company; a set by national and local comedian Paul Nardizzi; and master of ceremonies/celebrity voice impersonator Gary Leavitt.
Keynote speakers will include Rachel Scott of The Herren Project; Joann Bocca-Rivieccio, manager of Somerville Overcoming Addiction and Mother Against all Odds, community action groups that have come together to do what they can regarding addiction in the community, stopping stigma and ending overdoses. She lost her son Frankie to addiction and overdose; Matt Ganem, a self-described recovering OxyContin and heroin addict and the executive director of Banyan Treatment Center of Massachusetts who is the author of “Shadows of an Addict,” a book of poetry about his drug addiction.
There will also be passed hor d’oeuvres, a full dinner buffet and dessert table, giveaways, door prizes, party favors, raffles for donated gift baskets, T-shirts and choice tickets to sporting events and such concerts as Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars.
The WildFire Band’s Fan Appreciation fundraiser will be at Breakaway, Route 1 North, Danvers, Saturday, Sept. 22, 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tickets: $15 in advance; $20 at the door (VIP tickets are sold out; the show has sold out in advance the past few years). For tickets, go to www.WildFireTheBand.net or call 617-962-3246. If you can’t attend but would like to make a donation, go to www.theherrenproject.org.