BY AL HEMINGWAY Staff Writer
Eric Knight woke up in the middle of the night several months ago with a brainstorm . He quickly grabbed the pen and note pad that he always keeps on his night stand and jotted down , “ give to the Gulf , ” then went back to sleep . This random act was the impetus for the “ Give to the Gulf” relief effort , a collaboration of area businessmen and musicians to raise money for those residents of the Gulf area that have been devastated by the oil spill .
Give to the Gulf contributors perform at the Kick Off Press Conference on July 7, 2010. Courtesy Photos. Give to the Gulf Performer Jackson Wetherbee from Duxbury, Mass. tunes his guitar prior to the performance.
On April 20 , 2010 the oil rig Deepwater Horizon , owned by British Petroleum , experienced a catastrophic explosion that killed 11 workers . The blast caused an oil line to rupture that has since spewed thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf waters that has had a serious impact on the environment , wildlife , the fishing industry , and tourism .
Knight , an inventor , scientist and founder of Remarkable Technologies , Inc ., attempted to contact BP with an invention he had that he believed could repair the leak .
“ A lot of others had the same idea I had , so I decided to help these people in another way , ” he said . “ Everybody loves music , so why not gather musicians , much like Farm Aid , to make an album that people can access online . A person can buy a song , or several songs , and the proceeds would go directly to those in need in the Gulf . ”
Knight contacted his friends Tom Russo and Paul Lombardo of the East Hartford-based L&R Productions to get the musical part of his idea up and running . Meanwhile , he also contacted Maryland resident Mike Sokol of JMS Productions , and the “ Give to the Gulf ” team was born .
Sokol created the online model for the website and , with his contacts at ITunes , the website became a reality .
“ I approached Eric and told him that Paul and I could write songs and help raise the bar of awareness of what’s happening down there , ” said Russo . “ His invention got placed on the back burner , and the musical idea began to grow . The rest is history . ”
Five of the 11 tunes in the first volume on the website belong to Lombardo and Russo , just to ensure there would be enough music for people to possibly purchase , and get the site up and running , according to Russo . The team chose the United Way as the charity to receive the donations . The worldwide organization had already established a fund for the victims of hurricane Katrina that slammed into the Louisiana coastline in 2005 .
“ We are the facilitators , ” commented Knight . “ We never touch the money , a person buys a tune , and it goes directly to the United Way . Also , the United Way has created a model , based on ‘ Give to the Gulf , ’ that can be used in the event of future disasters . This way , musicians can band together , and get help to an area within a day . So , we created something much larger . ”
The team is already working on a second volume . They put out a call to action to musicians , and the response has been overwhelming .
“ This is made up entirely of volunteers , ” said Russo . “ We certainly hope a national act will take notice , and help us out . Myself , Paul , and a guy named Bill Holloman , wrote the theme song . ”
“ All the artists who submit a song , still own all the rights to that song , ” explained Lombardo . “ But on this site , with every purchase someone makes , their royalties go to United Way to help in the relief effort . ”
Everyone involved in “ Give to the Gulf” is quick to say that it was a team effort . With Lombardo and Russo on the musical side , and Knight and Sokol on the technical end , the project took off quickly .
“ This is not an anti BP message , ” remarked Nancy Aborn Wuennemann , media contact for the organization . “ It is a pro-American message . If what happened in the Gulf , happened in Long Island Sound , wouldn’t we want other Americans helping us ?”
For more info on how to donate to the Gulf , go to http : // www . givetothegulf . org . Photography by Michelle Hansen