And a child shall lead them. You might call Bob Crawford’s upcoming set at the inaugural St. Jude Songwriters Session just another gig. Yeah, and Everest is just another mountain. For The Avett Brothers’ talented bassist, the Feb. 27 recital at The Triple Door in downtown Seattle is personal. Crawford was kind enough to chat with me recently about the unique event and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s importance to his family.
Crawford was blistering stages here and yonder with his musical brethren in 2011 when wife Melanie frantically called Bob to tell him that she’d found their daughter Hallie, not quite two years old, in her crib having a seizure. The soundtrack to the Crawford’s lives changed dramatically when their young daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The Crawfords quickly turned to St. Jude, world renowned for treating and defeating childhood cancer and other life-threatening pediatric diseases. Thanks to the hospital’s efforts, today Hallie is fighting the odds and beating cancer.
Crawford professed that he’d trade best-selling records and awards without a second thought if it meant a permanent cure for Hallie. “The way it’s gone for us, we’re not gonna get to a million for another 15 to 20 years (laughing),” said Crawford. “But I’d give up everything I have.”
“You can’t buy healing. For people that are suffering from malaria, we can buy medicine, we can buy mosquito nets. But for some things like pediatric cancer, you can’t buy a cure – the cure that will make you whole again. I remember having the thought early on, ‘If I could just write a two million dollar check and work it off the rest of my life.’ I’d trade places with her in a second.”
Without question, one of the most difficult things about watching a young child go through a serious illness is the helplessness that a parent feels. “As a parent, your first job is protector,” professed the musician. “From the moment they’re born, you’re protecting them from being cold, protecting them from being hungry. You childproof your house. My wife and I were in a position where we felt like we’d failed that part. It’s tough. It does a lot of damage to the parents, not to mention what the child goes through.”
The doctors and staff at St. Jude have certainly blessed many lives. One of St. Jude’s primary goals is to lessen the worry for parents dealing with the potentially devastating financial burden of caring for a sick child. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food, allowing them to worry about the most important thing – helping their child live.
St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Incredibly, treatments invented at the hospital have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90 percent, and has professed that it won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
Life’s challenges create pain and bitterness for some, humility and gratitude for others. Throughout all of the struggles, the insightful Crawford has been able to maintain a hopeful attitude. “Thank God I wasn’t put on the earth just to make music. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do. You’ve got to have a certain ego to get up on stage and project something to thousands of people. I’m not taking away from the blessing I have of getting to do my dream job.”
“But as you get older, when you believe in God, you realize you’re not the biggest thing in the universe, and how small I am to be struck by this tragedy, my innocent daughter to be struck by this tragedy. There’s something much bigger in the universe that created the universe. To be able to shine a light on these kids and shine a light on the struggles of their families and to shine a light on where the cure is, how we get there, that has been the blessing of my life.”
Crawford will be shining the light on St. Jude come this Saturday. He will be joined by native Washingtonian Tess Henley and other artists to come. Each songwriter will perform three of their best known compositions on stage with one another. Guided by an industry expert, the songwriter group will reflect on the inspiration behind each piece and share the process of their craft. In addition to the live performance guests will also enjoy libations from local vintners and brewers and silent and live auctions featuring unique memorabilia and experiences.
Seating is limited. Tickets are $175 per person and include a reserved seat, dinner by Wild Ginger and select bar. You can either click here for full event details, to make a reservation, or to learn about sponsorship packages or call the local field office at (206) 526-8900. You can join the St. Jude mission by making contributions here, liking St. Jude on Facebook (facebook.com/stjude) and following them on Twitter (@stjude).