She has been called the patron saint of Springsteen fans. And that’s exactly what Donna Gray—who was bestowed that title by Variety magazine—is.
Gray founded her one-woman operation, Bruce Funds, in 2012, amid Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball tour. The model: Getting concert tickets into the hands of fans who are unable to afford them, plus helping with accessibility and logistical issues that might otherwise hinder a soul-enriching evening of rock ‘n’ roll. “Bruce is on tour; I’m on tour,” Gray says.
Donors can give tickets to specific campaigns or random recipients, and anyone is welcome to nominate a potential recipient. Venmo donations are used to offset additional costs that accompany a night out, from childcare to transportation and parking to food and merchandise.
For Gray, a Connecticut-based editor who previously lived in Parsippany, Bruce Funds has become an enormous “juggling act” as consuming as a full-time job. “I dream about it. I sleepwalk about it. I think about it constantly,” she says. “There’s not a lot of other things that bring me [the same] sense of energetic rejuvenation as helping people get to a show.”
Gray’s involvement doesn’t end once logistics for a given show have been squared away; she checks in with recipients to ensure they arrived. “So if the show is on in Australia, I’m awake,” she says. “I think of them all like my little chickadees: Are they all in the venue okay? Are the tickets okay?”
To date, Gray has facilitated more than 1,200 ticket donations worldwide—from New Jersey to New Zealand; from teenagers to fans in their mid-80s.
Ahead of Springsteen’s homecoming show in Newark this past April, Gray ran a campaign to get a North Jersey high school student and avid drummer, Terrance, to his first Bruce concert. The donated ticket was located behind the stage, technically an obstructed view—but for Terrance, the perfect angle to observe his hero, E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, in action. The donor “made that young man’s dream come true,” Gray says, wiping tears from her eyes. (One of her mantras: “The tickets always end up in the hands they’re meant to.”)
At the time of this interview in late July, Gray was expecting to help “a ton of people” for Springsteen’s upcoming trio of MetLife concerts (August 30; September 1 and 3). One ticket recipient from Ocean Township, slated to attend a show for her 60th birthday, doesn’t drive; Gray reached out to a contact at NJ Transit to confirm local trains will be running. “I’m all about creating an experience from start to finish that [recipients] don’t have to worry about,” she says.
Gray has always had to screen for potential scammers and scalpers, a challenge compounded each year. But, she says, she still takes to heart the words Springsteen spoke decades ago: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.”
For more info, visit brucefunds.org.
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