The Mile High Makeout: Concert for Cash uses local music to help sick kids and their familiesBy Eryc Eyl | January 14th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Four years ago, Page and Tess Phillips welcomed their son, Cash Scanlon Phillips, into the world. Four months later, they watched him die. But rather than let this tragedy destroy their family and their lives, Page and Tess decided to use the experience to help other children and families. On what would have been their son’s first birthday, the couple recruited honky-tonk rockers the Railbenders for the first Concert for Cash at the Oriental Theater, raising money to build a garden at Children’s Hospital. On Saturday, Jan 22, the couple continues to use local music to honor their son and help families in need with the Fourth Annual Concert for Cash.
“He was kind of like a floppy chicken as a baby,” says Tess Scanlon Phillips, remembering her son. Even when speaking of the hardest experience a mother could have, the professional landscape designer has a sense of humor and a lust for life. “We were rushed to Children’s because he couldn’t breathe. Nine neurologists later, after an enormous battery of tests, we realized he was dying.”
Rather than take their son home with feeding tubes and other equipment to keep him alive for the next few weeks, Page and Tess decided to stay at Children’s with Cash and the medical team that supported him.
“The last day of Cash’s life, we were walking around outside the hospital with his oxygen for 10 minutes or so. We just had to leave the building to look at a tree or something,” Tess recalls. “This was at the old Children’s. It’s like a concrete jungle over there. And I said to Page, ‘Where’s the Cash Scanlon Phillips Healing Garden when you need it?’ We just needed a quiet place to say goodbye to our son.”
A few months after Cash’s death, the idea of a benefit concert came to Tess in a flash of inspiration, and the Oriental Theater was just the right place to do it.
“My husband and I had been to a bunch of ski movies at the Oriental,” Tess says of their connection to the place. “I didn’t really know Scott LaBarbera [owner of the theater at that time], but I knew he had a soul as big as Denver. I called him and then met with him. He sat there and listened and cried, and then he said, ‘You can do whatever you want.’”
The first Concert for Cash was a sold-out success, and soon, the Cash Scanlon Phillips Healing Garden was built. Each year since then, the Concert for Cash — with a silent auction and raucous local entertainment — has raised tens of thousands of dollars for various programs at Children’s Hospital that helped Page and Tess during their hardest times. The second year, the money went to the hospital’s bereavement program. Last year, it went to their international adoption program, which the couple hopes to make use of soon. Each year, the couple has been blown away by the generosity of the concert’s attendees.
“People show up for the band or to visit the Oriental or whatever, but then they eat the popcorn I bring in or go to photo booth or look at the awesome silent auction items. Everyone’s heart gets turned around when they’re at the Concert for Cash and they break out their pocketbooks,” Tess says incredulously. “And I want is for them to have a good time and feel good.”
This year, with the help of Gypsy-bluegrass-Hindustani rock outfit Hillbilly Inferno and classic country favorites the Hollyfelds, the Concert for Cash will benefit Children’s Hospital’s Welcome Program. The program provides hotel vouchers and other services to meet the non-medical needs of families while their children are receiving treatment.
“The concert is just about giving back to people,” says Tess. “You either grieve and die, or you do something.”
You can read more about the first Concert for Cash here.
The Fourth Annual Concert for Cash occurs Saturday, Jan 22, at the Oriental Theater. General admission tickets are $20, and VIP Patron tickets are $35. Click here for more information, or here to buy your tickets. For more information on Team Cash, the network of caring individuals that makes the concert happen each year, visit the Team Cash website.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Monday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.