Rock Steady

2009 Seeds of Hope honoree Bob Benjamin.

Bob Benjamin is the founder and president of the Light of Day Foundation.
Photo by John Emerson.

“I’m not the type of person who can sit idly by and let things happen,” says Bob Benjamin. “If I can do something, I do it.”

In 1996, Benjamin, then 38, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. True to his credo, he established the Light of Day Foundation, which holds benefit concerts to raise awareness of Parkinson’s as well as  funds to fight it and related illnesses.

It all began just before his 40th birthday party with a simple request for Parkinson’s donations rather than personal gifts. Benjamin raised $2,000 with that first night of music. The concerts soon became an annual event, with the first official show taking place in 2000 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

A well-connected music industry veteran and artist manager, Benjamin was able to get some big names behind his efforts, including a few surprise visits from good pal Bruce Springsteen. The two have been close since Benjamin (a self-described crazy fan) had a chance meeting with Springsteen during the 1978 Darkness Tour.

In fact, the foundation’s name is inspired by the Springsteen power anthem “Light of Day.” The Boss has been a presence at many of the shows, offering the all-too-appropriate lyrics: Well I’m a little down under, but I’m feeling okay/ Got a little lost along the way/ I’m just around the corner to the light of day.

Other performers have included Joe Grushecky, Jakob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, and New Jerseyans Pete Yorn, Southside Johnny, and Joe D’Urso, as well as actor (and Parkinson’s sufferer) Michael J. Fox, who starred in the film Light of Day.

The Light of Day concerts now rock out in eleven countries, and the foundation has raised more than $1 million. “I can’t change my situation,” Benjamin says, “but I can raise as much money as I can.”

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