People from all faiths, ages and backgrounds began to pack Congregation Emanu El an hour before the Berry Benefit Concert for Hope and Healing Thursday night. By the time the musical fundraiser began, Barish Sanctuary hosted about 1,000 supporters.
A scene where new and old friends met to offer a warm helping hand, the event aimed to raise funds to help the orphaned children of Joshua and Robin Berry, who were killed in a car accident over Fourth of July weekend en route back to Houston after a family vacation.
Nine-year-old Peter and 8-year-old Aaron suffered spinal injuries and are paralyzed from the waist down. They are receiving medical treatment at Shriners Hospital in Chicago, under the care of their uncle Adam Berry. Six-year-old Willa is currently visiting her brothers in the Windy City.
"The Berrys loved dancing around as a family to the tune of Black Eyed Peas' 'I Gotta Feeling'," singer Dee Dee Dochen said. "The words represent what the family is all about."
Programmed by artistic director Julie Loeb Sacks, the musicale was divided into three sections. In "Remembrance," melodies and songs of contemplation were received in quiet reflection. Opening the concert with "Over the Rainbow," soprano Alison Greene's shimmering and colorful vocals set the mood for what would be an meaningful experience for musicians and the audience alike.
"Healing" brightened the ambience beginning with The P.A.W. Pals Choir — P.A.W. for Peter, Aaron and Willa. A special troupe directed by Dora Lee Greinberg composed of kids from Congregation Emanu El, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, First Presbyterian Church and St. John Vianney Catholic Church, the choir wore T-shirts giving a nod to the Show Your Hearts campaign launched by mega superstars like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.
Some of the children are very close to the Berry kids. Others were just touched by their story and wanted to participate.
The concert promised surprise guests. Such guests were Peter, Aaron, Willa and uncle Adam via webcam from Chicago. They were able to watch their family and friends offer messages of hope and recovery over Facetime on their uncle's smartphone. Steven Sacks worked tirelessly to ensure the Berrys were part of the experience.
"Our families are very close and our kids are friends," said Randi Rubenstein, mother of 10-year-old choir participant Avery. "Going to rehearsals, performing and participating in this fundraising concert was very meaningful, allowing my daughter to do something active and feel like she was contributing to helping the Berry family."
The energy picked-up during "Hope," a program of uplifting lyrics and more robust rhythms that finished with what could be described as an inspirational bash. With the audience on its feet, "Hava nashira" (Let us sing, sing a song of praise) morphed a beautiful concert into a pseudo dance party celebrating life and transformed mournful tears into joyful ones.
"The Berrys loved dancing around as a family to the tune of Black Eyed Peas' 'I Gotta Feeling'," Shabbatones singer Dee Dee Dochen said. "The words represent what the family is all about."
In that spirit, the upbeat song was played as concert goers were ushered out of Congregation Emanu El. This night was indeed a "good night."
The concert raised more than $12,000 from ticket sales and donations for the Berry kids.