One thing I am so grateful for is to have a large amount of people in my life that I really look up to. Most of these people I know well and are or were a part of my daily life. Some of these people though, I don’t know personally. Today I wanted to talk about one of those people and how he has had an impact on my life, my family's life and thousands of others lives for many years.
You’ve heard me talk about him before, you’ve seen countless of his concerts on my Instagram stories and hopefully you read about him HERE a few short months ago... At the beginning of the Summer, about 16 years of fandom came full circle when Andrew McMahon, musician and founder of The Dear Jack Foundation came to visit my brother while he was in the hospital. I’ve been thinking since then about what I could do to properly thank him and the other musical angels who came along to the hospital for their selfless act of kindness towards my brother and my family. So! As of today, I’m beginning a fundraising effort for Andrew McMahon’s foundation, The Dear Jack Foundation. "They provide extremely impactful programming that directly benefits adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer in order to improve quality of life and create positive health outcomes from treatment to survivorship for patients and their families."
They are approaching the end of their annual $200K challenge which ends November 11 at his annual benefit concert which will be held in Boston this year. I have been a long time supporter of Andrew and The Dear Jack Foundation. Last year, I flew to Denver for his benefit concert and have always donated personally… But after he touched our family so deeply, I want to do something on a larger scale for him. I hope you will consider donating to this amazing cause. You can donate to our efforts HERE.
Before you do, or after you do, I guess, I would love for you to read a little bit about the history I’ve had with Andrew, his music and his story so you can understand why he is somebody that I greatly look up to and hope this story will convince you (if I haven’t already) to donate to his amazing foundation.
Andrew is a cancer survivor and has an unbelievable, strong and inspiring spirit. When going through treatment himself, he saw the lack of community and support for young adults and adolescents going through cancer treatment. In an effort to initiate change and provide a voice for the generations of young adults who have been diagnosed with cancer, Andrew founded the Dear Jack Foundation in July of 2006. If you’re interested in his story and want to learn a lot more about him, his music, story and family, he created an amazing documentary which takes you through every step of his journey through cancer treatments and how music and family saved him. The documentary is called Dear Jack and you can find it on Vimeo, YouTube or right HERE. Here's the trailer!
Ok! Now that you're filled in on Andrew & The Dear Jack Foundation... It's time to go deep, way deep into my history with his music. Let's rewind 15 years.... I was 11 and I remember standing in my sixth grade classroom and having my friend Amber playing me a song called "Space" by a band named Something Corporate. This was Andrew's high school band and I was immediately hooked on his unique voice. This is when it all started...
I remember being 13 and crying when I found out about his cancer diagnosis. I remember being 15, and having my friend's Mom drive my friends, Anna, Nicky and I to The Rave in Milwaukee to hear his next band, Jack’s Mannequin live for the first time. I remember him coming out on stage and us three full on crying because we were so happy to see him alive and well and for the first time in person. It had been something we had looked forward to and hoped for for a long time.
I remember being 16 and taking my Mom to see Andrew for the first time at Summerfest. I had a hard time in High School and Andrew's music made my life SO much better. It didn't take long for my family to find the same joy in his music that I did. To this day, if you walk into my parents house, chances are you'll hear Andrew's voice echo throughout their home at some point during your visit.
I vividly remember being 18, in my first year of college living in Chicago and standing in line for hours at The House of Blues to see Andrew McMahon. I remember standing in line next to a girl who I didn’t know but happened to be a music major at my school. Her name was Cyndi. She didn’t know who Andrew was but she was waiting in line to see Allen Stone, who she said was one of the best singers she had ever heard. I didn’t know who he was at this time. She stayed with us throughout the concert and I remember instantly being blown away by Allen‘s presence and his voice. Andrew was of course amazing, as always. After the show, Allen was alone at his booth selling merch. He was so new that barely anybody was talking to him. I went up to him to tell him how amazing he was and introduce myself because, well... we practically have the same exact name. He got a huge kick out of it and to this day we still laugh about being long lost cousins. Needless to say, that night he gained a life long fan. (photo below from that night)
I remember being 19, a sophomore in college and walking to class on a sunny day in October being stared and laughed at the day a new Jack's Mannequin album, People and Things was released. Being stared and laughed at because I couldn't help but full on dance along the sidewalks with a cheek to cheek smile as the magical new music played through my headphones.
I remember being 21 and living in New York for the summer while I was interning at Harper's Bazaar. Allen Stone was playing a show on a boat that cruised the Hudson River. I, of course, was there. Little did I know, Andrew McMahon was also on the boat just being a supportive friend. I had never met Andrew before but I had hoped to and waited for countless hours before and after concerts for years. So, I had thought a lot about what I would want to say to him.
It wasn’t a huge boat. So, it didn’t take me too long to find Andrew. He was talking to a friend so my friend and I patiently waited until he was finished with his conversation. Afterwards, I walked up to him, uncontrollably shaking in complete awe that I was about to meet someone that I had looked up to greatly for so many years. I approached him and I said something along the lines of; 'Hi Andrew I wanted to introduce myself... My name is Ali Stone. I’ve been listening to your music since Something Corporate and I wanted to thank you for sharing your story with all of us, for inspiring so many of us and for giving us hope and someone to look up to." I’ll never forget his response. He looked at me, smiled, reached out his arms and said: "give me a hug. It means so much for me to hear you say that". We took a picture, said see you later and I turned around and completely (excuse my language) lost my shit. I was ugly crying happy tears and remember calling my mom afterwards to tell her what had happened. At first she thought something horrific happened because I was crying so hard.
Six years have gone by since that night on the Hudson River and I can’t even tell you how many times since then I’ve seen him live. I’m lucky to say that as his music changed my taste in music has also changed but those changes have always aligned. He’s been my favorite artist now for 15 years. I feel like not many people have that and it may sound silly to say, but, I feel lucky and am so grateful and look up to a man I barely know... It's an odd connection I have to this musician who was once a complete stranger. My friends used to tell me I had a crush on him... But I never did, it wasn't that. I look(ed) up to him for following his dreams, not letting life's trials and tribulations get in the way of who he wanted to be and what he wanted to do and for making positives out of negatives. He is someone I wanted to grow up to be like. I didn't think I could admire him more than I already did... But, little did I know, it wouldn't be long until he became one of my real life heros.
In April, I was in Los Angeles and was flying home just in time to make it to an Andrew Mcmahon and Allen Stone concert in Chicago (I literally went from the airport to the venue). My whole family was supposed to come but given my brother's health issues, unfortunately he was stuck in bed with a migraine that day and wasn’t able to make it. My parents and I still went and we SO looked forward to the next month when Allen and Andrew would be in our hometown, Madison, Wisconsin and we would be going as an entire family. That weekend rolled around, I drove home and everything fell apart.
Now we're back to the story I shared a few months ago of Evan being in the hospital. In case you missed it, you can read the in depth story HERE. Long story short, my younger brother, Evan, was hospitalized in May. He, once again, was going to miss Andrew's show due to illness. With a simple instagram DM, Andrew Mcamhon, Allen Stone, Zac Clark and their awesome tour manager, Chris came to the hospital to support Evan and my family. I sit here writing this teary eyed and still in awe that after reaching out to our idols they were so selfless and willing, with no questions asked, to show up and heap so much love and support on Evan and our whole family. Of all the things they could be doing, they chose to spend time with a random family, in the hospital, to connect on such a personal level, make us laugh, sing and provide hope, encouragement and healing for Evan since he once again wasn’t going to be able to make it to their show. This is a day none of us will ever forget. Once again Andrew, together with Allen and Zac, turned a horrible situation into something beautiful and gave my family the silver lining of what otherwise would have, without them, been only a horrible weekend we couldn't wait to forget.
SO! I hope you're still with me and hope you will join us in saying THANK YOU to Andrew, Allen, Zac & Chris by donating to Andrew's amazing foundation, The Dear Jack Foundation.
You can find our personal fundraising page HERE.
All of your efforts are SO appreciated. All my love,