The key aspects to a fundraiser are the worthiness of the cause and what guests get for their donation. CAAEL’s 12th Annual Band-a-Thon on February 16th at Doc Ryan’s will not disappoint on either count. 

Anyone who hears about the Chicago Area Alternative Education League is moved by their mission. Since 1977, the non-profit has enrolled over 100,000 boys and girls in their programs. These are kids with behavior disorders attending alternative schools. Using sports and activities like chess as motivators, CAAEL gives these students positive direction. They learn to prize sportsmanship above all. 

The program’s long-time director, John Martin and his daughter Sarah Lorenzi describe CAAEL as an understaffed organization, operating on a shoestring budget, yet it has turned so many lives around. Sarah’s goal is to recruit more volunteers by expanding CAAEL’s presence on social media. 

John, a self-confessed “dinosaur,” painstakingly mails out letters to supporters – 450 for the Band-a-Thon. This is one of CAAEL’s few fundraisers and the organizers are excited about the quality of the silent auction prizes. Among them are pieces of hand-painted children’s furniture signed by the Blackhawks Coach “Q.” 

There will also be quality entertainment. Nine bands will be performing short sets from 4-8. I happen to know one of principals in the Tam & Dan duet. Forest Park attorney Dan Rice grew up listening to Broadway musicals, opera and classical music. He also listened to Top Forty hits on WLS radio well into the night. (I know this, because I was trying to sleep).

Dan wasn’t just listening to music back then; he was playing songs by ear on the family’s old upright. One of the “E” keys was dead so he had to play around it. He still picks out melodies on the keyboard during Tam & Dan shows. 

Tam Trutwin may have listened exclusively to AM radio in her youth but she later earned two musical degrees, one in music education. As a teacher for the Merit School of Music, she leads band and orchestra programs at area schools.

She also strums guitar and teaches her partner percussion. Dan says she knows a “jillion” songs: they currently have sixty in their repertoire. Tam’s stylized vocals can emulate Country, 90’s rock and traditional Irish. The duo’s set-list is all over the map.

This would describe the rest of the fundraiser’s musical line-up. They range from established bands like The Blue Lincolns, Mighty Joe and El Guapo to newcomers like Mark Kelty. Two of the bands, Grandma Shot the Badger and Door #3, are led by coaches and teachers who work with CAAEL students. 

Mighty Joe will act as MC and soundman. The local troubadour said that CAAEL wanted more variety and different levels of musicianship this year. So, if want to support local talent, enjoy drinks and pizza and help at-risk kids, come to Doc’s. And, if you shout a request to Tam & Dan and they don’t know it – they promise to learn it before their next show.  

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.