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City Places for City People
"When Words Fail Music Speaks": Small Town Support in the Big, Bad City

by Amy McNeal and Jessica Bruce

It happens across the country, every day. The kids get home from school and head into the kitchen for a snack. For Ashley Miller of Phoenix, Arizona, that snack was macaroni and cheese. It turned tragic when a pot of boiling water on Ashley's stove overturned on her, causing burns over a large portion of her body.

Faced with huge medical bills from the accident, Ashley's family was struggling. But this story takes a better turn. A local band in Phoenix stepped in to hold a benefit for Ashley. The support generated by the Ashley Miller Benefit Concert showed the power of what a few people can do to bring a community together, even in the big city. Ashley's father, Jason Miller, was shocked by the outpouring of love and support.

"I would like to thank my friends in Coldest Lonely for the first introducing the idea of a benefit show and then making it happen. When I was told it was a plan, I asked what I could do, and they told me, "Nothing ...we got this." I then watched these friends of mine turn a charity idea into a monster of a movement. This thing was a snowball rolling downhill. It grew bigger and bigger as every day went by. I was astounded and flattered by the effort that people were putting into helping me and my family during our time of crisis."

The benefit started as a tiny snowball of an idea. Ashley's dad Jason Miller is acquainted with some the band members of the Phoenix area rock band Coldest Lonely. When they heard about Ashley's accident and the ensuing medical and rehabilitation bills, they decided to hold a benefit at a bar where they play regularly to help the family out. As they spread the word, other Phoenix rock bands decided to step up to the plate as well. Donna Jean's Libations agreed to host, and offered to do it with no cover charge and donate a portion of the night's sales to the cause. Then, Phoenix area businesses joined in by offering up prizes to auction off at Ashley's benefit concert, including Dillon's Restaurants and 24 Hour Fitness. The snowball became an avalanche.

The Ashley Miller Benefit Concert was held at Donna Jean's Libations on August 12th. Ashley's family was in attendance, as were several hundred Phoenix supporters. The bill included five area bands: Coldest Lonely, Whiskey Six, Black Bottom Lighters, Abandoned Theory and Crooked Grin. Radio host Dave Darrin from 106.7 KWSS promoted the benefit on his show and came out to host the auction. Doors opened at 7, and the place was standing room only by 7:30.

"Even though one of the members of the Coldest Lonely's house got broken into recently and they took much of the band's equipment the incident did not deter them to move forward. They got our community involved to help the Miller family pay for their medical bills. I am proud of our community and what they do" said Gloria Lamb, a local music booster who attended the show.

Ashley's family will be better able to afford the costly care and rehab that she requires thanks to this outpouring of community support. The idea and the execution came through a grassroots effort to bring a community together in support of just one resident. That's not so strange in small towns. But this was Phoenix, a major metropolitan area--the Big, Bad City. The story of Ashley Miller's benefit concert illustrates that even in the big city there can still be strong, supportive community efforts that make a difference, one life at a time.

Amy McNeal and Jessica Bruce