mattwesselmusic


The Concert for Life tradition

The first CFL was in Gurnee, IL in February, 2001. It was organized and put on by the Warren Township High School FBLA program (Future Business Leaders of America) in honor of Kate Pedersen, a student at the time and FBLA officer. Kate had cancer and her fellow students wanted to raise money for the ACS in her honor.

At the time, I was a student at Marquette University. Since I went to Warren, and because the FBLA staff knew about my father's story, they asked me to be the musician at the show. I had put on my first-ever concert in 2000 and some of the staff from Warren were at the show and liked the songs and messages that they heard. So, together with the memories of my father and the inspiration of Kate, we had our first CFL in Gurnee in 2001.

What it has since grown into is something that I find hard to describe. I often think of where I would be without the CFL. The show has become a part of who I am as a person and it was a part of my life during some of my more formative years. I can't imagine my life without the memories of the CFL. And as much as the show has inspired me as a person and a musician, I know it has inspired thousands of others who have been to one of the concerts, whether as a volunteer or an audience member.

The show's success is attributed to all of the students, teachers, volunteers, parishioners, musicians, benefactors and audience members that have helped grow the Concert For Life from an idea with immense potential into a fundraising model that generates just as much hope as it does money. I'm forever grateful to anyone who has ever sold a ticket, baked a brownie, edited a program, donated a raffle, tied a ribbon, copied a flyer, moved a piano, played a song, or applauded a performance.

The CFL has never been just about the music or the money. The show's focus is fellowship and its best measure of success is hope. Since the first show in February of 2001, this concert has served as a reason for people to gather in support of those who fight a fight that should never be fought alone. The CFL has shown the impact that a group of dedicated individuals can have on the world, no matter what our age. It is a testament to the power of inspiration, the capability of dedication, and the promise of a vision.

Kate lost her battle with cancer in November of 2002, five years after my dad lost his fight in November of 1997. She was able to attend the first two CFLs in Gurnee. Many people remember the progress she made from 2001 to 2002 after seeing all of the support and hope that her community and classmates were giving her. As much as she inspired us, we were also an inspiration for her - a reason to keep fighting. It is her memory and the memory of my father that provide the inspiration for the Concert For Life year after year.

While we said goodbye to the CFL in Gurnee in 2014, its legacy will continue in future events organized by Warren Township's FBLA and through my music.

Fundraising totals

March 7, 2014 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $35,163
March 10, 2013 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $34,000
April 22, 2012 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $33,800
March 13, 2011 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $43,950
March 14, 2010 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $45,700
March 22, 2009 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $38,000
April 6, 2008 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $38,500
March 8, 2008 Milwaukee, WI Marquette University $2,500
October 21, 2007 Pleasant Prairie, WI St. Anne Church $1,000
July 29, 2007 Mt. Prospect, IL St. Cecilia Church $3,500
April 22, 2007 Milwaukee, WI Marquette University $5,000
March 11, 2007 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $37,000
October 6, 2006 Pleasant Prairie, WI St. Anne Church $1,000
July 21, 2006 Gurnee, IL Bethel Lutheran Church $1,300
March 12, 2006 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $23,700
September 29, 2005 Milwaukee, WI Marquette University $4,800
July 8, 2005 Gurnee, IL Bethel Lutheran Church $2,500
May 1, 2005 Libertyville, IL St. Joseph Church $8,000
March 13, 2005 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $20,500
February 22, 2004 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $16,000
February 12, 2004 Milwaukee, WI Marquette University $2,000
March 21, 2003 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $12,000
November 21, 2002 Milwaukee, WI Marquette University $1,800
February 22, 2002 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $8,000
February 23, 2001 Gurnee, IL St. Paul the Apostle Church $6,000

Total raised for the American Cancer Society: $425,913