Alec Lopata’s Bands Battling Cancer Event
Posted May 24, 2012 by Alejandro De La Cruz
Alec Lopata remembers being really confused when he heard his friend Jack had leukemia. He told me it was the first time he had encountered the idea of someone having a deadly disease among his community of family and friends. Alec was 11-years-old and, as he put it, “I was just a normal, naïve 6th grader before that.” Wanting to help his friend, Alec sat down with his family and decided that organizing a battle of the bands fundraiser called Bands Battling Cancer — with half a dozen bands participating at a prime venue — would be a great way to raise money in honor of Jack. He soon created a cause on Causes.com and went to work.
The idea for a musical showcase arose during a family meeting with Alec, his sister, and mom and dad. At 11-years-old, Alec had been managing some bands — booking rehearsals, scheduling shows — and was inspired by that experience to create Bands Battling Cancer. It was at this moment in our conversation when I established that Alec was one of the more impressive young adults I’d ever chatted with.
Alec had never participated in charitable work before Bands Battling Cancer, so he had to learn on the go. “When I first started, I was fixated on one venue that I wanted to get. They were being difficult, so I had to switch venues last minute. It was a complete rush that first year to get everything done, to develop connections: we didn’t really know what we were doing.”
The first year, Alec was unsure of the event’s format. “[Bands Battling Cancer] ended up as a competition with judges and they would decide the winner, but when I started I had no idea.” He recruited nine bands to play, but two had to cancel. Friends were emailed, Facebook updates were distributed, and he set a price for admission: $3. The participating bands played three songs and were judged by a panel of three professional musicians that Alec recruited. “We tweeted one DJ directly. His name is Walt Flakus’ and we sent a message to his radio station [in Chicago], and they told us they’d talk to him about it.” Walt became a judge soon after. One last element was a raffle. Alec said it’s probably the most successful fundraising tools for the event. Some of the prizes include Beatles memorabilia, signed LPs, and Chicago Bulls jerseys. In just a few months, Alec had taken a dinner table idea and turned into a night of family revelry. In that first year — seven bands, three judges, and dozens of attendees later — Alec had raised over $4,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Alec knows that he couldn’t execute such a great event without the help of his family. His father, who works in tech, helped craft the Bands Battling Cancer logo [Ed note: Awesomeness] and is also the in-house proofreader, website developer, and second-in-command. Alec’s mom and sister also provide support by distributing flyers, making sure the event runs smoothly, and helping with social media work. In the end, the support of his family nurtured his gem of an idea, and propelled it to success.
Alec is now 15 and wrapped up his fourth Bands Battling Cancer event two weeks ago. This year’s event drew 10 bands and saw an expansion: middle schoolers and high schoolers rocking out on the same stage. Admission was raised to $5 and a new prize for bands was unveiled: a two-hour session at a professional recording studio. Alec also chalked up a new record: $5,400 raised. That’s over $20,000 in four years, including $7,400 raised on Causes. He hopes to continue organizing throughout high school and believes he’s only hit the tip of the iceberg.
And how is Jack doing since his diagnoses four years ago? “He is currently in remission, and that’s really good.” Indeed!