Sherri Kaufman didn’t know anything about the Rise Above Fest, the day-long heavy metal concert that rocked the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor last Saturday. All she knew was that there was a fundraiser raffle for a deluxe, tricked-out poker table to benefit Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE, and that she wanted to buy as many tickets as she could to help the organization, for which the Rise Above Fest and the raffle were raising money.
The South Portland woman had a very personal reason to want to help out.
“My brother passed away from suicide in April, so when my husband heard on WCYY that there was a fundraiser for SAVE, I had to be there,” said Kaufman. “I didn’t even know about the concert, even though I’m a fan of Seether. I just wanted to help out.”
The raffle and a portion of Rise Above Fest ticket sales ended up raising more than $50,000 for SAVE. It gave Kaufman an emotional few days, connecting with Seether and some of the people from SAVE — and it won her the poker table, created by gaming company Luxury Gaming Inc. and valued at over $60,000.
“It’s just been a surreal, amazing week,” said Kaufman. “I can’t tell you what a meaningful experience this has all been. I haven’t had that many hugs in a long time.”
Kaufman’s husband, Dennis, heard that Seether was doing a meet-and-greet Friday morning at WCYY in Portland, and tickets for the raffle were being sold there, too. Kaufman trucked down to the Old Port, walked into the store and immediately ran into Elissa Young, the Waterfront Concerts marketing director.
“Elissa told me the tickets were 10 bucks, and I had $180 in my pocket, so I just said ‘I’ll take 18 tickets,’” said Kaufman. “She kind of looked at me, like, ‘Whoa, seriously?’ and I told her I just lost my brother to suicide. She gave me a huge hug and took me right over to meet everyone.”
Kaufman met Dan Reidenberg and Linda Mars of SAVE, who spent a great deal of time talking with her, as well as Seether frontman Shaun Morgan, who lost a brother to suicide in 2007. That loss inspired Morgan, a New Hampshire resident, to start the Rise Above Fest, raise awareness and help suicide prevention efforts.
Alex Gray, Waterfront Concerts executive director, found the suicide prevention and awareness cause to be something anyone can get behind — the fact that its nationwide prevalence means it has touched nearly everyone.
“Like cancer, which has a ton of support, just about everyone knows someone or is close to someone who has been touched by suicide. In the arts, this is especially prevalent,” said Gray. “After talking with the guys in Seether and their management, we all agreed that [this event] was ideally suited to Bangor, due to their ties in New England and our ability to present first-class events.”
Young gave Kaufman and her husband two tickets to last Saturday’s show, and the couple came up to Bangor the next day to attend the event. Gray and the folks from Luxury Gaming drew the winner in between Seether and Avenged Sevenfold’s sets, and much to her delight, Kaufman won. The poker table, handmade by Luxury Gaming Inc., featured extras such as a full stereo system, an array of remote-controlled lights and a removable guitar signed by the members of Seether.
“I was about three rows back from the stage when they called my name, and I was just going nuts,” said Kaufman. “It was so packed in there, I could barely get out and backstage to claim it. It was kind of unbelievable.”
Kaufman said she was inspired by the generosity and support she experienced at the concert and plans to do her own fundraiser for SAVE.
“It’s been a really rough month for me and my family,” said Kaufman. “I really want to try to give back.”
A previous version of this story requires correction. The meet-and-greet with Seether took place at WCYY, not at Bull Moose as previously stated.