Ex Tea Party Drummer Raises $200,000 For Transition To Betterness

By Karen Bliss 10/17/09 | www.samaritanmag.com

Tea Party
Jeff Burrows says a few words in honour of his late manager, Steve Hoffman
Former Tea Party drummer Jeff Burrows, now the midday host at CKUE 95.1/100.7 The Rock and playing in a new rock band called Crash Karma, has so far raised a little more than $200,000 for Transition To Betterness (www.t2b.ca) in Windsor, Ontario, doing everything from online auctions to 24-hour drum marathons.

“When [The Tea Party’s manager] Steve Hoffman was hit with cancer, it really hit the band hard,” says Burrows, remembering back to 2001. “That first got me more aware of people dying of cancer, people close, between Steve, my father-in-law and others around me.

“The band at the time was approached by Transition To Betterness to do an event in Windsor. There was a hefty price for an intimate show, a meet ‘n’ greet, and a dinner at a nice restaurant which our friends owned.”

The fundraiser brought in about $15,000 and Burrows “got the bug,” he says.

“I thought, ‘Wow, what an easy thing to do to bring a) awareness and b) money and as things kept rolling along, I was finding out that it’s more about awareness and people knowing what the charity is and what they do for our community.”

Transition To Betterness was founded in 1997 by Windsor’s Doris Lapico and Tania Sorge, whose lives had been affected by cancer and they wanted to help others locally.

“Since its opening,” says the charity’s director of operations Kelly Bryan, “T2B has developed not only a comforting hospital setting for kids with cancer, but an art therapy program, kids nutrition room, kids music therapy program, movie and game supply program, a slushie machine for the unit open at all times, and a kids comfort blanket program, all of which launched and are kept going using many of the dollars that Jeff has led T2B to raise.”

Burrows’ first idea for T2B was to collect signed drumsticks from the performers at the SarsFest concert in Toronto in 2003 for which The Tea Party was also on the bill.

“I thought, ‘I’d really like to meet the likes of Neil Peart from Rush and Phil Rudd from A/DC.’ In a selfish manner, I thought, ‘What can I do to meet them? Why don’t I ask the drummers if I can get their drumsticks and have them sign them and auction them off?’  That’s where I came up with that idea right there on the spot.

“I ended up collecting all of these drumsticks and signed paraphernalia from everyone from the Guess Who to Blue Rodeo and Rush and I auctioned them off and things steamrolled from there. That was the first installment of my 10 auctions total and I think I’ve made close to $100,000, if not more, through these online auditions.”

Burrows has since done an online auction every six to eight months. Among the items he’s auctioned are a pair of ex Tea Party frontman Jeff Martin’s leather pants; a cookie decorated with album art from the Juno Awards; and a pair of drumsticks from every “keeper” in the studio for all the songs since 1995’s Edges of Twilight that he had the band sign, date and write the song name on.  “I thought, ‘Someday I might want them for something.’ A lot of those ended up fetching 500 to 700 dollars,” says Burrows.

Understandably, Burrows doesn’t have much left to auction off so he’s getting more creative. A few years ago, he auctioned a meet ‘n’ greet package with Nickelback in Detroit and Montreal. Three years ago, he came up with the idea of the 24-hour drum marathon.

Tea Party 2
Burrows jams with members of Windsor's Citizen Erased at the T2B 24-hour Drum Marathon

The first, in 2007, raised $4000, but last year he proudly raised $13,000.  Burrows played for 24-hours, starting at 2 a.m., and was joined in shifts by bands who registered to accompany him. “I’m on the drum kit the whole time and when I have to relieve the back and the bum and the legs, I have a stand up drum kit as well.”

Tea Party 3
Burrows standing in the Steve Hoffman Room
The money is raised by a small minimum donation at the door; the sale of sponsorships, and goods collected for raffles. Coupled with that, he auctioned off on e-Bay amazing Rush packages. Most were meet ‘n’ greets, but some included signed drumsticks, guitar pics, and the rare opportunity to watch the band soundcheck. It started with one auction prize and ballooned to three in Montreal, and one each in Toronto and Pittsburg. Those raised 18k, says Burrows, and another drum marathon this past May raised another $15,000.

The funds from his drum marathons recently went to the completion of the palliative care room at Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital, which is named in honour of Steve Hoffman, an important dream realized for Burrows.

“Jeff continues to work with T2B in our future goals and task in order to move forward with our mission of creating a compassionate hospital setting for cancer patients and families in our community,” says Bryan.

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