Riverfront jam band concert seeks to fund Sun Foundation programming

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The Sun Foundation’s unique programs for youth include Arts and Sciences in the Woods, a title fitting for its location in a wooded area of the Illinois River Valley and Crow Creek near Washburn. (Photo courtesy of the Sun Foundation)

Tickets remain for a unique jam band fundraiser on the Peoria Riverfront that will celebrate 50 years of the Sun Foundation and help fund the nonprofit’s youth art and nature programming for years to come.

Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment, along with The Sun Foundation, are bringing the nationally renowned and iconic Summer Camp Music Festival jam band, moe., to the Peoria Riverfront on Thursday, Sept. 28 for a concert in celebration of the anniversary.

The eventual goal is to raise $100,000 during an ongoing awareness campaign in honor of the Sun Foundation’s past 50 years, according to Sharon Obery, a program coordinator and volunteer for the Sun Foundation for around 30 years. Donations benefiting The Sun Foundation will be accepted as an add-on to the ticket price for the concert, whether purchasing online or at the gate during the day of the show.

Started in 1973 by Bob and Joan Ericksen, the Sun Foundation has provided unique, vibrant programming in the arts and environmental sciences for young stewards of planet Earth for the past 50 years, or three generations of youth. It provides K-12 youth with innovative high-quality programs, services, publications, research, grant assistance and cooperative efforts for the general public, underserved groups, schools, artists, and arts organizations.

The Sun Foundation’s unique programs for youth include Arts and Sciences in the Woods, a title fitting for its location in a wooded area of the Illinois River Valley and Crow Creek near Washburn. Held in June, the program employs professional artists, sculptors, scientists and educators to inform kids in a week-long outdoors classroom environment.

“We have ceramics, painting, we have rockets, exploring, survival arts, storytellers, music, Native American culture, bird banding, reptile instruction, geology and fossils,” said Obery.

“There is just a wide variety of experiences. Most kids attend one major class every morning, and a different ‘minor’ class Monday through Thursday afternoon.”

Rather than housing an overnight camp, the Sun Foundation provides buses that pick up kids each morning of camp in their neighborhoods. Buses currently transport kids from Peoria, Metamora and Germantown, though any area youth are welcome to participate in Sun Foundation’s programming.

“We give scholarships to about a third of the kids that come. We used to work with organizations in Peoria, but that just hasn’t worked out because there is a lot of challenge in that. We do get a lot of rural kids and city kids, each who can apply for scholarships,” said Obery.

The Sun Foundation is also the host of The Clean Water Celebration, held each spring at the Peoria Civic Center in Peoria. Billed as the largest event of its kind in the world, students learn how to make a difference by protecting water resources. Teachers, business professionals and environmentalists teach Illinois students how to protect the ecosystems of aquatic creatures like tadpoles, wiggly worms, native bluegills and zebra mussels.

Obery noted that the Sun Foundation will need public support to continue its mission for the next half-century, in terms of both financial and hand-on support.

Her goals for the Sept. 28 concert?

“Hopefully to get more awareness out about our programming. We also need fundraising; it’s getting harder and harder to do fundraising for things we need. We rely on the community to help support the program. We do get some funding from the Illinois Arts Council, and Dick Blick has supplied us with generous amounts of arts supplies. But we do need community support, both financially and with volunteers,” Obery said.

Tickets are $28 (plus fees) and there will be a suggested donation add-on during the online checkout process and also at the box office throughout the event, according to Ian Strasser, a spokesperson for Goldberg Events. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 6:45 with local support from Formerly The Fox.

A limited number of tickets remain for the event. For more details, and to purchase tickets, visit JayTV.com.  Can’t make the show but still want to support the Sun Foundation? Multiple ways to give are available at sunfoundation.org/donate50.

Learn more about the Sun Foundation at www.sunfoundation.org.