My first HeadCount volunteer experience was nearly six years ago. I don’t remember the show but I remember the reasons I signed up to volunteer. It was a fantastic way to explore my interest in political participation with the added benefit of seeing an abundance of live music.
I quickly discovered the benefits exceeded my expectations. Not only do I get to further my interests, I receive many unique opportunities while meeting other wonderful volunteers in the process.
In addition to countless live shows, I had the opportunity to attend festivals, shake hands with Trampled By Turtles, and register voters at a Jobs and Justice event organized by Al Sharpton. These were all very memorable experiences with their own stories. However, what happened at the Elephant Revival show is my favorite HeadCount story.
It all started almost four years ago when my daughter, Charlie, was born ten hours into her twenty sixth week of gestation due to severe preeclampsia. She weighed a mere one pound, eleven ounces. She was in the NICU for three months.
A couple of times, I took a break from my bedside vigil at the hospital and volunteered an evening with HeadCount. My Team Leader, Chris Reed, often asked how Charlie was doing. Although I cut down on the number of shows and events, I continued to volunteer as Charlie grew.
Over a year ago, Chris asked about what kind of music Charlie liked. I responded with a tale about how I once left a channel playing a Dispatch show on the TV when I did the dishes. By the time I finished, Charlie stopped playing with her toys and was singing The General along with Chad Stokes. From that moment forward, Charlie had become a Chad Stokes superfan. Chris and I laughed about how some kids like Barney and my kid likes Chad Stokes. It’s unfortunate that Dispatch wasn’t on my radar before this.
During a show a couple of months ago, Chris asked if Charlie was still into Chad Stokes. I laughed, “There is so much Dispatch, State Radio, and Chadwick Stokes played in our home that I’ve memorized about every lyric.” I admitted that I even know weird facts about the bands from being shushed by Charlie during the interview pieces on the videos.
About a week ago, Chris notified me that Chadwick Stokes was opening for Elephant Revival. We discussed how it should be Charlie’s first show. Things fell into place. I found myself driving into Northern Virginia with Charlie in the backseat singing Right Me Up a few days later.
Unfortunately, Charlie’s dad had to work late the night of the show. Chris and I decided to carpool. He navigated and Charlie listened to a few different versions of The General as I drove into DC through rush hour traffic. We arrived at the 9:30 Club and met up with the other volunteers in time for sound check.
During sound check, we set up the HeadCount table. Charlie peeked around the corner and watched Chad play. She kept turning to me and whispering, “That’s Chad!”
After sound check, Chad came to the table to speak with us. Charlie was excited and overwhelmed as we posed for pictures. He asked Charlie if there is anything she would like to hear. She requested, “Take a shower, shine your shoes!” aka The General. Eventually, Chad had to return backstage to prepare for his set. The doors were about to open and we had voters to register.
Charlie was oddly enthusiastic about canvassing with the HeadCount volunteers. She loved carrying the clipboard and asking people, “Excuse me, are you registered to vote at your current address?” She’s better at canvassing than I am with my five years of experience.
The lights lowered when it was time for Chadwick Stokes’s set. The other HeadCount volunteers, Charlie, and I moved to the front so Charlie could see. She took turns dancing with the other volunteers and climbed on my shoulders for a few songs. Midway through the set, Chad gave a shout out to Charlie before playing her request.
When the opening notes of Camilo were sung, I cheered. I really like the song. When the girl next to me said, “How did you recognize this song so quickly?” I realized exactly how much of Chad Stokes’s music plays in our house and vehicles. Towards the very end of the set, Charlie retreated back to the HeadCount table for more dancing space.
Charlie was exhausted by the end of Chad’s set. Unfortunately, I had to get her home and did not get to stay to see Elephant Revival. However, I’ve heard they are phenomenal.
There are many days in the clinic, at the hospital, or during therapy appointments that I think “It’s not fair. No child should have to deal with this.” Every now and then, there are extraordinary days, like the time we volunteered for the Elephant Revival show, which make me forget about all those other days. These are the things I want to remember when I look back at Charlie’s childhood. I want to thank Elephant Revival, Chadwick Stokes, the 9:30 club staff, and HeadCount for making it happen.