Now in its third year, Rockin for the Cure still stays true to its roots, providing a fun and festive atmosphere while remembering Morris Benatar, who died in 2016 from complications stemming from Crohn’s disease. The event is sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
“My husband has a band, and [in 2017], a brewery had offered them a spot on a Sunday afternoon where they could play for charity. After talking with my sister-in-law and my parents, we decided it would be a good tribute,” said Ruth Falkenstein, Benatar’s sister. “Morris loved music and he would always come up when my husband’s band would play.”
That first year, the event was held at Monday Night Brewing, but last year it was moved to Nowak’s, where it remains this year.
“We connected with Blaiss Nowak, and he offered his restaurant and it was fabulous. We changed the name — which the first year was ‘Blues & Brews’ — to ‘Rockin for the Cure,’” Falkenstein said.
While the venue remains the same, the goals this year are higher than ever. In its first year, the event raised $6,000, and last year, it raised more than $16,000, but expectations remain high.
“I think we will have 150 or more again this year and I think we’ll raise over $30,000 when all is said and done,” said Shannon Primm, development director for CCF’s Georgia Chapter. “The event fills a need for the chapter. We need something fun to bring people together. There are three generations at the event and it being open to anyone is really important.”
The local chapter was founded by Leo and Louise Benatar, Morris’ parents, after his diagnosis, and in previous years, the event was largely organized by Falkenstein with help from her siblings and Morris’ widow, Diane. This year however, there has been a concerted effort to involve a third generation of Benatars in the planning process.
“This year we really had the whole family,” Falkenstein said. “We called a meeting and got all the kids involved. Morris’ daughter-in-law designed our new logo. Now it really is the third generation, and soon, on to the fourth, but hopefully by then there will be no more need.”
Leo echoed his daughter’s sentiment, stressing the importance of family’s involvement in the cause.
“I love to see the younger generations involved. I’m the oldest member of the Benatar family now, the patriarch, and when we have events, we get them all together,” he said. “I believe in the family and I’ve tried to impart that on to our children and grandchildren and now, great-grandchildren.”
With music, food, drinks and a raffle, the event really is fun for whole families, Falkenstein said, and that atmosphere was vital to her when first planning the event.
“I would say the fun came out of the fact that my brother loved music. It epitomizes who my brother was and who our family is,” she said.
Primm also noted that keeping the event light helps to combat the difficulty surrounding discussions about inflammatory bowel disease — the blanket term for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
“It’s not sexy. No one wants to talk about how many times they’re going to the bathroom with their friends, and at work it can absolutely have an impact,” she said. “So, there’s a really big stigma there, and the awareness that events like this raise is just as crucial.”
While IBD isn’t isolated to the Jewish population, it is a more common disease, particularly among the Ashkenazi, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other nationally recognized medical sources.
Falkenstein notes that the Atlanta Jewish community, and particularly the family’s longtime congregation, Congregation Or Veshalom, has shown immense support.
“It doesn’t just affect Jewish people, but it’s one of those diseases that is very prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish community — which is what my mother was. Many of our synagogues’ members have already donated and come to the event,” she said.
The third annual Rockin for the Cure event takes place Sunday, Aug. 18 from 4-7 p.m. at Nowak’s restaurant. For tickets, visit http://bit.ly/2Ma31hY. Tickets are $30 online, or $35 at the door.