October 14, 2020
From Spectator to the Stage
Author: Lauri Hofherr
At last year’s Chicago Rocktoberfest, I stood on the main stage with the ALTSO Allstars which included Ray McKenzie, my former boss. Strumming my guitar, my mind wandered to my first Rocktoberfest to see Ray, who was now playing just over my left shoulder, on that same stage. My mind quickly focused as I was about to sing, but realized there was no air to breath around the microphone! This was my dream come true and I was going to choke! But there I was, thrilled and terrified, on stage in front of several hundred friends, coworkers and strangers united in the common goal of rockin for the #CoolKids.
What an amazing experience! I am not a singer and had only been playing guitar for a year, so my rendition of What’s Up? was barely tolerable … but I gave it my all! It had only been a short five years since my first Rocktoberfest. How did that happen? Seriously, ‘What’s Up’?
I went that first time with Ray’s encouragement and brought along my best friend Sandy. We had both worked in the Chicago finance community for years, and even though Ray told us we’d see a lot of old friends, it was surprising how many former coworkers across the industry had all come together to support ALTSO’s amazing work for #CoolKids all around the world. That was the night I fell in love with the mission. I was touched by how intimate the organization was with all the attendees. The committee's gratitude radiated out to the audience and the audience returned the love a hundredfold. What a beautiful event. I was so glad I had showed up!
And I kept showing up. The next year I dragged half my book club with me. We ate, drank wine, danced and sang along, bought our glowsticks. We watched Ray, as well as another former boss, Jim McNulty, performing with his cousin Michael and the incomparable Ian Maksin. It was such gorgeous music it made me cry! We closed the evening saying we’d be back the next year. It still makes me smile remembering the good times with good friends and for such a good cause.
Fast forward just a few years, and I dragged my coworkers to Rocktoberfest. We had so much fun! We all wanted to help the cause so we cajoled and challenged everyone to contribute in some manner with the purchase of glow sticks and placing bids in the auction. Later, in 2018, Ray and Gaby asked me to be the Chicago co-chair and I happily accepted. I also took my first guitar lesson just so I could persuade my coworkers to do a short acoustic set, and finally take advantage of Ray’s invitation to join the super ALTSO All Stars.
Mobility is so fundamental to EVERYTHING in our daily lives that we do not even think about it. But for the #CoolKids, mobility is so much more than the right prosthetic or device. It is about independence, options and hope. Every child needs mobility to take advantage of an education, build independence, play with friends and create priceless memories. I could not be more proud to be part of the ALTSO team, supporting the mission in anyway that I can on behalf of the very, very #CoolKids!