Fun Project Turns into Musical Fundraiser
When Mark Puskarich '86 first proposed that he and his friends record a Christmas CD, it began as a fun project to share with their friends and family. Four years later, the group's efforts have raised nearly $35,000 for The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Mark came to Otterbein from his hometown of Cadiz, Ohio. He was very active on campus, graduating with a double major in business administration and computer science. He was president of Zeta Phie during his senior year, and remaing their advisor until 1997. As a student, he also was a member of the Torch & Key and letter in track in 1985.
After graduating, he began working for Worthington Industries, where he is now application management director in the Information Systems depertment.
Before entering Otterbein, Mark was in a band during his teenage years in the 1980s. The band, called Aereon, included his good friends Lorne VanFossen, Cody Ramshak, and Dave Clo.
"About four year ago, I proposed the idea of recording a Christmas album just for the fun of it," Mark said. "It would be a way to preserve their talents and share it with family and friends."
The friends planned to use Cody's garage studio to record their album. But their plans faced a challenge early in 2000 when Lorne, the guitar player for the band, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma cancer.
A yearlong battle ensued that included chemotherapy, radiation treatments and complications that left Lorne's six-foot frame at 120 with water around his heart and right lung.
By the summer of 2000, Lorne was well on his way to recovery and a new idea surfaced. Mark presented to Cody at a Christmas party the idea to proceed with making the CD, but using it to raise funds for the cancer research. The seeds were sewn for A Christmas to Cure Cancer.
A Christmas to Cure Cancer consists of Christmas and seasonal music and contains diverse musical styles including blues, country, folk, and even heavy metal. Musicians on the album include the four childhood friends who make up the band Aereon, along with contributions from Corrina VanFossen, Rob Ragsdale, Lois Puskarich, Jan Roll, Mitch Fox, Rick Brown, Janet Gallucci, Julie Lucas and Michele Clay.
Since its inception, the album has been a huge success. "We've raised nearly $35,000 for The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute since October, 2002 when the CD first went on sale," Mark said. "We held a Christmas concert benefit last year at the Holiday Inn in Worthington. About 400 people attended the event and we raised nearly $10,000 that evening.
Mark said that the childhood friends have made future plans for the fundraising efforts. "I am currently in the process of incorporating em>A Christmas to Cure Cancer as a non-profit entity under IRS regulations 501(c)(3). This will qualify all donations to the charity as tax deductable and enable us to host larger events in the future," Mark said.
"A second Christmas CD will be started this next year for release in 2005," he added. "We hope to feature more artists from the area to continue the diverse styles of music we established on the first CD."
The musicians also are planning more benefit concerts for the upcoming holiday season, including one on Dec. 5, 2003, at the Villa Milano on Schrock Road and a second on Dec. 7, 2003, at Dover High School The Theater. More information about these events and samples of the songs from the album and other bonus material can be found on the website at www.achristmastocurecancer.com.
People interested in buying a copy of the CD can write to Mark at 5226 Columbine Ct., Columbus, OH 43230. "We're asking that people make a minimum donation of $15 per CD," Mark said, stressing that buyers include their return addresses. Mark asks that checks should be made out to The James, and may qualify as a tax deductable donation.