A Sneaky Way Music Festivals Give Back

Governors Ball 2014 In New York - Day 3

by Melissa Unger

Now that summer is here, there’s a good chance you’ll be catching some of your favorite music acts at a festival stage near you. And here’s a little secret: you might be doing good and not even know it!

Last week Governors Ball lit up New York City’s Randall Island, and the festival and its catering company, Spectrum Catering, arranged for music fans to give back to various local charities.

“I think a lot of them [people] didn’t know that they were donating,” said Caroline Romanelli, who was volunteering for Eden Autism at the festival. Caroline, who assisted at the concession stand, noted that not only did the stand’s tip jar benefit Eden, but part of the concession stand receipts did as well. Based in Princeton, New Jersey, Eden Autism supports children, adults and their families who deal with autism.

You would actually be hard pressed to find a tip jar or concessions stand at Governors Ball that didn’t have proceeds going to a specific local charity. This means if you bought any type of drink or food at Governors Ball this weekend, you gave back. Caroline, who organized her concession booth, explained, “They [Spectrum Catering] would give us 30 cents per cup/ bottle of beer that we sold to a non-profit of our choice, [like Eden Autism].”

Donnette Carroll, President of Sickle Cell Thalassemia Patient Network, added that it was easy for charities to be part of Governors Ball. “We actually didn’t do anything other than provide the workers. Spectrum Catering…provide[s] everything [like tents, chairs, the food and even beverages to sell]. Spectrum pays [gives] a percentage of what is sold, then whatever the tips we make is just ours,” she said.

Donnette explained that being a part of the Ball is important to her. “It means a lot because it is an income stream that we would have never thought of. I really appreciate the opportunity to use it,” she said. She is grateful to those who knowingly donated. “I would say to them, ‘Thanks not only from me, but from the entire sickle [cell] community and the family we serve, because by your tipping, you are making a difference. You are showing that you care about our charity. You are showing that you care about individuals who you probably will never meet.'”

Last year the stand at the Governors Ball helped raise enough to give away three scholarships and sponsor a luncheon for volunteers. But there is more to the stand than just raising money: It’s about getting the word out about World Sickle Cell Awareness Day (which is June 19), promoting the group’s NYC walk on September 20, and teaching people about the disease itself.

Lisa Winborn, Treasurer of the Minority Engineering Educational Task — a student-run organization at Rutgers University that helps minority engineering students — explained that being a part of the festival is about more than accepting money. “The Governors Ball is a great way for us not only to raise money, but also for us to bond with each other and get to know each other more,” she said. She is hoping to take the money the group raised this past weekend and use it for “a week-long event for high school, middle school and elementary kids to educate them more on the science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields” in New Brunswick.

Knowing those fields of study need more diversity, she said that she is a “double whammy” in her science classes, since she is “African American and a female.” She wants minority students to know that “within the science fields there is not that much diversity, which is why we try to educate people and try to convince them that though it may be hard, you don’t have to take this journey all by yourself.”

So the next time you are heading to hear your favorite band play at Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza, make sure you check around. You just might be doing more good than you think!

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