TRAVERSE CITY — It took just four hours for more than 400 donors to shell out about $10,000 to benefit a Traverse City musician and music teacher who is battling illness and medical bills.
Charlie Lakritz, organizer of "Jammin' Down for David Chown," said he expected a Sept. 14 fundraiser to pull in a few thousand dollars for his friend Chown, who has struggled to pay medical bills since being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"My feelings are, we need to help each other. Traverse City is a small town," Lakritz said. "I've been here since 2004 and it's not only become my home, it's become my family."
Chown recently underwent an expensive surgery to remove his cancer, but soon after faced a double-whammy: bills left by his high-deductible insurance and being unable to work.
"He was out of work for a month," Lakritz said of Chown, who has two children, a wife and bills. "They had insurance, but insurance doesn't pay for lost wages."
Lakritz and a group of Chown's other musician friends got together to organize a fundraiser last weekend after they realized the financial burden that confronts him.
The result was an event at the Holiday Inn that drew 28 performers, all of whom took the stage to entertain between 400 and 500 donors who turned out to help pay Chown's bills.
Lakritz is well aware of the financial burden imposed by health woes -- he's undergone surgery on four occasions -- and jumped at the opportunity to help Chown.
"If it wasn't for friends and family, I'd be living under a bridge over on the Boardman," he said.
Chown, 54, is well known for his willingness to perform at fundraising events for free, Lakritz said.
"If I have a date open on my calendar, I'm there," Chown said. "How do you say 'no'?"
The outpouring of support relieved one of the biggest stresses in the Chown family's life. After getting his diagnosis in July, Chown and his wife Janet went from one struggle to another. They first tackled the fear that accompanies a cancer diagnosis.
Then, facing his own mortality, Chown had to make choices about how to treat his cancer.
"Frankly, I was scared to death," he said. "We just made our decision and I trusted in God. We just talked to God and our doctors."
It wasn't until after the surgery that the reality of weeks without work and a large insurance deductible hit the family. Chown estimates he lost about $6,000 in income from the weeks of recovery when he could not teach lessons and play gigs. And the bills from the surgery arrive every day, he said.
Chown is quick to mention ways he could help others who land in the same situation.
"You don't really realize what type of person a man is until you hear about it from other people," Lakritz said. "I feel wonderful that we were able to put this together to pay him back."
Organizers plan to set aside any leftover money to help the next person in the music community in Traverse City who falls ill and needs help paying bills.