The Ronnie James Dio-MD Anderson Connection Lives On

For those of us who spent most of our teenage years headbanging and blasting metal, Ronnie James Dio was a legend. Though he was not quite as highly regarded as his predecessor in Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, those of us who gave Dio's operatic vocals a chance found riches in both his albums with that band, Rainbow, and his wealth of solo material.

All this weekend in Los Angeles, musicians will come to pay respect to their fallen idol, who passed away from stomach cancer in 2010, in a celebration commemorating five years since the inventor of the devil horns left us. Though most of us in Texas won't be able to attend, those who will are also helping us. That's because the benefit events, sponsored by the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, will be raising money for cancer research at, among other hospitals, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Events include a celebrity bowling tournament, a public memorial and concert, and a motorcycle ride.)

Hardcore Dio devotees are probably aware that, as for many other celebrities diagnosed with terminal cancer, MD Anderson was his last, best hope at finding treatment. In the last six months of his life, Dio spent his time there undergoing treatments that ultimately could not save his life. He passed away here on May 16, 2010. Still, the quality of care he received and the spark of hope it shone on him were enough to keep Dio fighting until the day he died.

Since then, his widow, Wendy Dio, founder of the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, has given numerous donations to MD Anderson through her charity work, including a $117,000 donation in December 2010 and a $100,000 donation just last year. Her initial donation allowed the doctor who treated Dio to pursue grants from the National Cancer Institute that ultimately provided $10 million toward cancer research.

Almost all of us are touched by cancer in some way or another, be it the loss of a family member or a friend, or even the loss of our musical heroes like Dio. The research done at MD Anderson to find a better way to treat, and ultimately cure, this disease once and for all is beneficial to every single one of us. And the truth is that none of us know when it will hit us. We can try to prevent it, but in the end, it could strike at any time. The research happening in Houston isn't just for those who have already been diagnosed; it's for all of us who will one day be diagnosed.

That's why charities like the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, and in turn, events like this one mean so much. Most of us will never donate to the research that might end up saving our lives one day. It's the same reason most of us don't plan for our retirement all that thoroughly. We just live in the moment.

But by way of events like this one, where we indirectly plunk down our hard-earned money toward that research by paying to see bands we love and music we grew up listening to, we are ensuring the future of ourselves and all our loved ones. It may not happen today or tomorrow or even in the next few years. But ultimately this will all benefit, if not us, then our children or our children's children.

So coming back around to the events, the memorial celebration that will occur in LA this weekend is not only a great way to benefit MD Anderson and other research hospitals, it will be a rock extravaganza for anyone who chooses to attend.

Though Dio's fanbase might skew on the older side, this event will feature headliners from all walks of rock and metal, and all eras. Featured performers include artists as wide-ranging as Tenacious D, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Chris Broderick (formerly of Megadeth), and members of the Dio band itself including Rudy Sarzo and Craig Goldy.

The festivities will include a bowling tournament with dozens of the musicians involved, a motorcycle ride and barbecue event on Sunday, and an auction featuring bowling pins signed by major music celebrities of past and present, including Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac and Metallica.

Full details on the many events and performances planned can be found at the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund Web site. Even though most of us here probably can't fly out to attend, it's still good to know that important festivals like this are taking place to raise money for hospitals all around the world, including right here in Houston, to hopefully end our cancer epidemic for years to come. For those of us who do attend, it's going to be a ton of rock-and-roll fun with every cent going to a worthy cause.

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Corey Deiterman