Riverdale reaches for its stars


Saturday evening’s message can be summed up in three words: “Please be generous!”

And its success was marked by the fact that fans contributed to the cause — helping low income families faced with pediatric cancer — by dropping $5s, $10s and $20s inside a hat made out of purple construction paper while performers sang and strummed well into the night.

Nearly 20 Riverdale artists including, bands, painters and solo musicians were among those who packed themselves inside An Beal Bocht Café over the weekend to raise money for the Purple Hat Foundation, founded by Riverdalian and guitarist Jeremy Bar-Illan.

Mr. Bar-Illan started the organization in 2009, the same year his 17-year-old son, Zachary, lost his battle to Osteosarcoma, a rare, aggressive type of bone cancer. After his son’s death, Mr. Bar-Illan, who had worked full-time on Wall Street, reevaluated his priorities. He threw himself into his music, teaching guitar lessons and performing on weekends. He founded the Purple Hat Foundation, dedicated to raising money for low-income families who have a child diagnosed with cancer.

Mr. Bar-Illan said one of the most difficult things about his son’s illness was balancing the stresses of work and everyday life with the fact that he wanted to spend every waking minute with his child. He said he hopes his foundation will ensure that others do not have to struggle with that choice.

“A child is going to fare much better if there is complete and full support of the family at all times,” Mr. Bar-Illan said in a phone interview before the event.

Now he is one step closer to making his goal a reality. The 11-hour music marathon, the organization’s second fundraiser, began around 1:30 p.m. and by 6 p.m. had raised $1,000. Fifty minutes later, its treasurer, Ilene Richards, who was dressed in a purple tunic and intermittently passed the purple hat over calls to “please be generous” (a regular phrase at a place that hosts live music on the promise of tips) — gleefully announced the total had reached $1,100. By 7:42 p.m. it was at $1,400 and by 10:30 p.m. Ms. Richards was toting $1,700 “and counting.”

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