By Dee Suomala
Solid Rock Foundation
Beyond the elegance and glamour of expensive cars, celebrities mingling in red‑carpet attire and dining on $250 meals served on the finest china, the true stars of Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock nonprofit organization were everywhere at Las Sendas Golf Course in Mesa on Sunday, April 26, 2015.
I’m talking about the beneficiaries of the 2015 Alice’s Wonderland Tee Party. It was a most humbling experience to talk with some of the kids who have been greatly impacted by the generosity of Cooper and his wife Sheryl. Many traveled far to support the Coopers, and the work their foundation does for the Valley’s youth.
A lot of work went into putting this event together, and the money raised from silent auctions and the Rock & Roll Golf Classic will benefit the Solid Rock Teen Center.
Our teens face many challenges today, and the statistics for those using drugs, committing suicide and encountering violence are staggering. Solid Rock believes that all kids are at risk and because of that belief; the Coopers have made it their life’s mission to keep them off the streets and mentor them through a form of music therapy.
Some of these talented young minds at the Tee Party stepped up to share their stories—and how music has changed their lives. These kids are humbled by and incredibly grateful for the Coopers’ philanthropic efforts. Hayden, who plays many instruments, but has a special focus on guitar, bass and drums—said, “I think this is really great to be able to come here and play, and do cool stuff for the people who come and help out the teen center—which is a great organization.” Hayden and other teens from Solid Rock participated in the entertainment portion of the event, and volunteered to work during the event to give them hands‑on experience with event planning and the opportunity to collaborate with the event team. It was a real blessing watching these musical prodigies perform with such great passion.
Jam plays the bass guitar and piano, and sings as well. “This has made a difference in my life,” he said. The Teen Center’s annual event—Proof is in the Pudding Musical Talent Search—allows him and others the unique opportunity to perform alongside mainstream bands. Jam acknowledges that if it hadn’t been for Solid Rock, he would not have had the same drive that he does now. “I’m among family, and they have my back.” He envisions “bringing more love into the world through his music.”
Then there was the beautiful young lady Al, who shared with me that she had started with guitar and bass, and with the help of the Teen Center’s songwriting class she has just written her first song. She’s so proud of her accomplishment and says it wouldn’t have happened without Solid Rock. “I see myself progressing with music,” she confided. She has found her passion and knows that she wouldn’t be as far along as she is now if it wasn’t for the “Rock.” She feels a sense of family and knows people have her back. “I feel safe being myself. There are no labels—I am home.” Having “no labels” is important to all at the Teen Center—as they are individuals.
Neil Smith is proud in saying that he was the drummer, writer and co-writer of the original Alice Cooper band. “It’s all about the kids,” he said. Smith’s message to them: “If you love sports, or you love music—stick with it! I started at nine years old, played through high school, and ended up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … you just never know!” he said.
Actor Patrick Warburton and his wife Cathy were also in attendance to support Cooper’s efforts. “It’s a wonderful foundation … Alice and his wife have dedicated so much time and effort … it’s brilliant how generous the two of them are,” Warburton said. He added that the Cooper comes out to Palm Springs almost every year and performs to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the celebrity golf tournament he supports. “It’s been a great friendship.” I asked Warburton what message he had for the kids, and he replied, “Be tenacious and persistent with your dream—that is how dreams become reality. Don’t quit on yourself!”
When I spoke with actor Kevin Sorbo, he had encouraging words for those who were in attendance: “Don’t give up and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible. The dream is yours!” Former Malcolm in the Middle actor Frankie Muniz shared the same message: “Don’t give up on yourself and don’t let anyone tell you different.” As I talked to more people, I discovered that most, if not all, had that never quit attitude.
These talented young musicians played some amazing, unique music that evening. It was such an honor to hear their stories and watch them light up when they started talking about their music! I did wonder if they were nervous playing in front of a huge crowd—if they were, you could not see it all. Their confidence and talent is what came across loud and clear.
The message I heard over and over was how much the “Rock” has helped them grow. For some, this is the first time they have known there is a place for them—Solid Rock has their back. This is just a glimpse of their stories, which all ends with HOPE—these kids KNOW how lucky they are! Don’t give up. Keep going, no matter hard it is, you are the only one stopping YOU. So dream big and then dream BIGGER!