Charity concert benefits local nonprofit

SALISBURY — When Lori Gardiner was contacted by the Legendary Giveback 5 concert, hosted by Cheerwine and The Avett Brothers, she was pleasantly surprised.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Ms. Gardiner, who runs Wags and Wishes animal rescue in Cambridge. “It’s too good to be true but it happened, so we’re really excited about it and thankful.”

She was excited but hesitant.

“We are a really small group so I said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to talk to a bigger group,’” said Ms. Gardiner, who has volunteered with humane societies for 30 years. “But they were looking for a small group.”

The nonprofit looks forward to shared proceeds from the concert and its Indiegogo campaign.
“They called us! That never happens,” said Ms. Gardiner, who attended the concert with her husband, Kevin, and several key members of the organization including her daughter, Danielle Willey. “We are always trying to hope and get some funds … The money will go directly into our account. It goes straight to the dogs.”

The all volunteer group became an official nonprofit in 2008 and receives support from volunteers from Salisbury University, specifically the Alpha Phi Omega co-ed service fraternity. Wags and Wishes partners with PetSmart, as well as animal controls and shelters in Delmarva. They take abandoned dogs or dogs without owners and provide them with health checks, spay/neuter services and help to find them forever homes.

“Some animals need extra time to find the right home,” said Ms. Gardiner, who reported the organization helped get 63 dogs adopted so far this year. “We can provide that. We work with the individual dog.”

Thanks to proceeds from the benefit concert, Ms. Gardiner can help more dogs. In its fifth year, the concert was held Saturday at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury. Since 2012, it raised $200,000 for many charities through ticket sales. It supports three different charities annually, with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign added this year to provide extra support.

“We wanted to bring it to more people,” said Scott Avett, lead singer and a founding member of The Avett Brothers. “We wanted to make it available for more people to donate and be a part of it. We have fans all over the country and all over the world.”

Mr. Avett was happy to support animals in need.

“We grew up with animals in our family, always,” he said. “We are very in touch with the joy of having a puppy dog or an animal you love.”

In addition to Wags and Wishes, the concert supported St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Hungry for Music in Washington, D.C. Hungry for Music provides musical instruments for children and teachers with students willing to learn.

“We would love to reach out to a school program in this area,” said Jeff Campbell of Hungry for Music. “It’s a grassroots project that’s slowly grown and now it’s reached a point where I’m going with the flow.”

Mr. Campbell attended the concert with Ms. Gardiner and was thankful for the support.

“This comes along at a really great time for us and is a great boost,” he said.

Beneficiaries of the concert were selected by Cheerwine and The Avett Brothers, with input from Pepsi’s local branch and the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center to provide a local recommendation. Joy Harper, branch manager of Cheerwine, was excited about this year’s nonprofits. Created in Salisbury, N.C., Cheerwine is a family-run business celebrating its 99th year and is slowly expanding up the East Coast, similar to the benefit concert. Distributed by Pepsi on the Eastern Shore, it can be found in all major grocery stores.

“(Wags & Wishes’) mission was important to both Cheerwine and the band,” Ms. Harper said.
As for Ms. Gardiner, she’s grateful for the support.

“Thank you to the Avett Brothers and Cheerwine for the opportunity,” she said. “It’s such a generous thing they do.”

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