Matt Farris wanted to make a difference in his community, so he decided to help by doing what he does best: sing.
Farris and his entertainment friends provided more than five hours of classic and contemporary country music to more than 500 people on Saturday to raise money for those who lost their homes in the Willow Fire, which destroyed 11 primary residences in Mohave Valley’s Topock Lakes Rancheros Subdivision in August.
“It’s an amazing turnout from an amazing community,” Farris said. “From the bottom of my heart, thanks to everyone who supported the concert and came out to help raise money for those affected by the Willow Fire.”
Farris pulled the Willow Fire Relief Concert together with the help of “Uncle Si” and Marsha Robertson from “Duck Dynasty,” Brad Johnson, Shari Rowe, James Robert Webb, Littletown, and DJ Boom Bandit.
“I grew up in Lake Havasu and I have friends in the area,” Farris said. “When I saw and heard what was happening, I wanted to do what I can to help. The people in the area supported me in getting my career going and I want to give back to the community.”
Webb said he was glad to be a part of the concert.
“Matt and I have been friends for about a year,” Webb said. “I really wanted to contribute to such a good cause, and I haven’t been in Laughlin for about 20 years. It’s still a great place.”
“Uncle Si” Robertson told stories, sang and made himself available for autographs and photo opportunities. Marsha Robertson sang “Amazing Grace” to a standing ovation, and encouraged raffle ticket sales while calling out winning numbers.
Special guests for the evening included some of the families who were affected by the Willow Fire, including Terry “Tigger” King and his wife, Cheryl, who lost their home to the blaze.
“This is overwhelming,” said Terry King. “Obviously this isn’t just for us, it’s for the entire neighborhood. We’re humbled and grateful for the support. I want everyone here to know, we’re not victims, we’re victors. Please accept our thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to help get us through this.”
More than $10,000 was raised through ticket sales, silent auctions, raffles and a live auction of an autographed sailor’s hat, said Amy Kleefisch, Boom Bandit spokeswoman.
Navy Petty Officer First Class Kreig Newton, a childhood friend of Farris, had every performer on stage sign his hat and then put it up for bid from the stage at the Avi Casino Ballroom.
“This cover (the U.S. Navy term for a sailor’s hat), has been around the world twice,” Newton told the audience. “I’m kind of sad to see it go, but it’s all for a good cause.”
Pam and Trevor Nelson, schoolteachers from Parker, paid $500 for the hat.
“It’s a bit of support for a fellow military member,” said Trevor Nelson. “I’m retired from the Air Force after 24 years. Besides, the money is going to a really good cause.”
Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward also took the stage to thank the crowd for its support.
The money raised by the concert will be distributed through River Fund, Inc., a local nonprofit agency that provides direct emergency and crisis services for people and families throughout the Tri-state. River Fund arranged shelter for families displaced by the fire, helped replace medications, and continues to provide support and services for the families.
“We’re the boots on the ground to help,” said Mike Conner, River Fund Inc., executive director. “People affected by disasters like the Willow Fire have needs that are both immediate and long-term, and we’ll be here for the long term.”
For many, there were multiple reasons to attend the concert.
“I love country music and came out to see Matt Farris,” said Katy Hanna. “It helps to know that the concert is also raising money for those affected by the fire. People who didn’t come out missed a really great time for a really good cause.”