Rick Charette entertained a standing room only crowd at the 23rd annual benefit concert at Saint. Joseph’s College on Sunday, November 24. Charette, accompanied by the Bubblegum Band, had children popping like popcorn, learning simple signs, and enthusiastically singing along to many of his familiar favorites, like Bubblegum, I Love Mud and Alligator in the Elevator.
Charette has been donating his time to perform a benefit concert at Saint Joseph’s for 23 years, and his performance this year was as dynamic and energetic as always. With movement, catchy choruses, and a visit from Al the Alligator, Charette kept children engaged and entertained for a solid hour. The program also included an interactive reading of “Oh No, Santa” by Kees Moerbeek, and a sing along of several familiar Christmas carols.
Admission to the concert was an unwrapped toy, and donations were also accepted, to help local towns bring a happier holiday to struggling members of their communities. Charette performed for free, and also donated a portion of his merchandise sales to the cause. Audience members were treated to candy canes and hot cocoa as part of the experience.
Historically, attendance for the concert has been high, and this year was no exception. Kathryn Cody, coordinator of social justice and leadership at St. Joseph’s Mercy Center, said it was the largest turnout she had seen at the event, and she counted more than 500 people enjoying the show.
The Mercy Center, which is the department of campus ministry at Saint Joseph’s, is a center for learning, leadership, service and social justice, said Cody. The center works to connect all of those to the whole person, she added, taking into account the spiritual, environmental and academic well being of the students. Her role, she said, includes fostering leadership in students and getting them to think about the larger social issues that are involved in charity and service work.
Cody serves as an advisor for the event, with two students taking the lead in making it all come together. Rose LeBlanc and Mary Becker are the co-organizers of the event and do the bulk of the work, said Cody. “They’re doing the work, and making sure that all this runs smoothly,” she said. “We touch base to make sure it’s getting done, but they really take a strong leadership role in all of this.”
Last year, said LeBlanc, they had the help of a senior who had organized the concert in prior years. This year, it was all up to her and Becker. She said it was both a lot of work and a lot of fun to organize. The coordination of details included contacting many people to get the help they needed, including the business club who helps at the door, the baseball team for set up and tear down, the facilities department, copy center for fliers, and the cafeteria, which donates the hot chocolate. LeBlanc said they begin work on the event about two months prior, and will continue to work afterwards to sort and organize toy donations.
“I like seeing all the kids get all excited about it,” said LeBlanc of the event. She added that the concert gives kids a chance to just relax and enjoy Christmas music before the business of the holiday hits. LeBlanc said she also enjoys the feeling when the town representatives come to pick up the donations, and are excited to see how many have been collected.