Friday, October 22, 2010
Celebrating Pearl Jam
I met Mike McCready and his amazing wife, Ashley O'Connor, in 2005. I had not really listened to Pearl Jam before then, although I am enough of a rocker that I'd certainly heard their big hits on the radio or an occasional Saturday Night Live or Letterman performance. Mike and Ashley and I met in a hotel bar. They listened to me talk about what I was starting to do, helping patients with chronic illnesses -- at that time, my focus was on my disease, inflammatory bowel disease -- with insurance appeals and answering legal questions, all for free. I hadn't figured out how I was going to organize or raise money or anything; I just knew there was a real need and nobody was filling it -- and I knew I could do it if I could figure out the logistics.
Mike and Ashley encouraged me to start Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness. Indeed, they pledged to support Advocacy for Patients if I moved forward.
They have been true to their word. In 2006, when Pearl Jam played Hartford, I hung out backstage with Mike and Ashley, and then Mike and Ed presented me with a check for $21,171 -- $1 for each ticket they sold in Hartford. It was that donation that allowed me to start working at Advocacy full time.
In the years since, Mike and Ashley -- both themselves and through Pearl Jam's Vitalogy Foundation -- have kept us afloat. Because of Mike's support for our work, the Wishlist Foundation also has become a major supporter (and many of its members have become dear friends). The annual Flight to Mars benefit concert in Seattle has become a benefit mostly for Advocacy for Patients. Mike even brought me onstage with Pearl Jam this past May here in Hartford, dedicating a song to me!
Needless to say, I have become a major Pearl Jam fan. They are one of the greatest live bands I've ever seen -- and I've seen enough so that's a big statement. Their spirited music and spiritual lyrics -- their commitment to their fans -- puts them right up there with the best live bands ever -- Springsteen, the Stones, the Who. If you're a classic rock junkie like me and you haven't really listened to Pearl Jam, do yourself a favor and take a listen. You can even listen to Pearl Jam Radio free on their website.
Mike writes "How I choose to feel is how I am." He is, indeed, the real deal. Without him and Ashley, those of you who have needed my help would not have gotten it. Without Mike and Ashley, I never would have had the guts to take this risky plunge, starting a nonprofit despite being sick myself. Without Mike and Ashley, I never would have had the great honor of working for other patients, sometimes even saving a life, and hopefully improving the quality of life of thousands of patients over 5 1/2 years.
I love Mike McCready and Ashley O'Connor. It's not about the money; it's about the fact that the money speaks what's in their heart. They believe in what Advocacy for Patients does. They believe in me. And I have never been given a greater gift. Ever.
And so, on this the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam's first gig together, I celebrate the mysterious forces that brought those five guys together into a cohesive ONE that is one of the best rock bands to ever exist. I celebrate my friends Mike McCready and Ashley O'Connor. I celebrate all of the Pearl Jam fans who have supported the band, which in turn has supported Advocacy for Patients. I could not be more grateful to Mike and Ashley, the other members of Pearl Jam, the Wishlist Foundation -- and the great good fortune that we all crossed paths in this life.
Happy anniversary. Here's to 20 more years together. Jennifer