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Fundraising and Fighting Cancer with Music for a Cause

October 31, 2018

On September 28, 2018, Alex Bondarev, also known as Conversing with Oceans, organized a concert in the Bronx to support the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and raised $500. He and his friends have been organizing monthly fundraisers for various charities and nonprofits for some time. After the recent diagnoses of close friends, as well as reflecting on how many people in their lives have been affected by cancer, they chose to support a cancer charity at their next event. We spoke with Alex about how he began fundraising, what makes a great event, and why he’s supporting CRI.

Conversing with Oceans at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.
Conversing with Oceans at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.

Tell us about your fundraising event.

We decided to host the “Music for a Cause” concert when we’d heard that a few very close friends were recently diagnosed with cancer.

We have a partnership with the nonprofit Elfenworks, who provides support & resources for events like this one. A venue called Jimmy Ryan’s in the Bronx kindly lets us host monthly residency shows with our friends. There is no cover charge at the door, so we’re able to collect donations for these causes from whoever attends. We also had our friends at Red Gate Sound do professional sound and video and a local talented photographer/videographer Lou Guarneri document the night and help us to live stream. This helped gather donations online from folks who couldn’t attend the event in-person.

Once we had a date set, we invited inspiring friends to hop on the bill (this particular bill had Frank Ocasio Brother Band, Durieux, and Zeyi) and promoted as usual. We’re fortunate that word has gotten out about these evenings and people enjoy contributing to a good cause when they can, so these nights have been both successful and rewarding.

Durieux at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.
Durieux at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.

You currently do a lot of nonprofit-related events. What’s the hardest part about coordinating such an event?

Honestly, there are so many great charities and nonprofits doing tremendous work that it’s hard to pick which one to give to for that particular evening. Often times, we encourage patrons or people involved in our music community to give us suggestions. We then research for quality and try to pick something that resonates most in that particular time. And thankfully, from doing these kinds of shows for the last two years, we have a great team that helps all run smoothly.  

Frank Ocasio Brother Band at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.
Frank Ocasio Brother Band at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.

Why did you choose to raise money for the Cancer Research Institute?

Many of our loved ones are currently battling it or have battled it at one point in their lives. The members in Frank Ocasio Brother Band all lost their mothers to cancer. The day of this event, a dear friend was actually undergoing surgery. We were thinking of them that entire night. (And thankfully, it was a successful one.) I was also deeply inspired by a close friend who chose to (under the close care and guidance of his oncologist) focus more on his immune system and alternative approaches.

We’d looked through several different charities and we were really inspired by the consistent quality and inspiring progressive thinking of Cancer Research Institute. A lot of the modern treatments involve very aggressive treatments of invasive surgery, chemotherapy, and heavy dosage radiation. While those are certainly lifesaving and often quite necessary, I was struck by how CRI’s approach differs in its focus on enhancing the body’s immune system instead. It’s quite a different and very promising approach to this multifaceted disease. 

Conversing with Oceans at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.
Conversing with Oceans at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.

What feedback have you gotten about your events?

They’ve all had very positive feedback and I’m very grateful for that. I think most people are genuinely excited to be a part of something meaningful and contribute generously whenever given that opportunity.

Durieux at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.Durieux at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.

What words of advice do you have for people planning their own fundraisers, especially those raising money through creative events such as these?

I would tell them it’s surprisingly easier than they think. The first thing is really to just get started. A few friends with the willingness to give a little bit of their time and skills are also a big help. You get to do it your own way, too, so you can get as creative as you want and involve whoever you want. Another key, though, is to start small and look for places within your own community that are willing to host: a local bar, a restaurant, a coffee shop, or bookstore, anything really. You’d be surprised how many places are looking for ways to help, and what you’re looking to do just might be their answer. It’s truly amazing what we can do when we work together.

Also, I’d be happy to share any other insight I’ve gained and what I have learned along the way if they want to reach out directly.


Conversing with Oceans at Music for a Cause (September 28, 2018). Photo by Lou Guarneri.

*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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