Rockin’ out for a good cause

Event raises money for autism


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Bobby Ziegler of Pretty Birds That Kill performs at the Rock for Autism fundraiser Friday, April 5 at the Eagle River Boys & Girls Club.

MIKE NESPER

When Maria Pepperworth wanted to host a concert featuring local metal bands to benefit autism, skeptics weren’t shy about telling her how it would fail.

Then she raised $3,000.

This year, Pepperworth brought the second Anchorage Rocks for Autism event to Eagle River in the hopes of doubling last year’s total.

She almost did just that, as this year’s event took in $5,620.

Four bands took the stage at the Eagle River Boys & Girls Club for an all-ages show Friday, April 5. Eight bands played the following night at Avenue Bar in Anchorage.

All the proceeds will go to the Autism Society of Alaska and stay in state, Pepperworth said.

All 12 groups played for free and many donated the proceeds from merchandise sales, said Sarah Pederson, a concert promoter with Family Tree Presents who helped Pepperworth host the event.

“The bands are really supportive,” she said.

So are the fans. Many people in the metal and punk rock scenes are covered in tattoos and piercings, Pepperworth said, and can relate to those with autism as both can feel like outcasts.

“It’s a way more understanding crowd from the beginning,” she said.

Having two children with autism, Pepperworth wanted to combine her love of music with brining attention to the disorder.

“It was always a dream of mine to do a rock show for autism,” she said.

The concert was held in April to coincide with autism awareness month.

About one in 50 school-aged children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with autism, according to Heidi Haas, president of the Autism Society of Alaska. Because the state doesn’t keep records, there’s no way to know how many Alaskans have autism, she said.

In 2009, it was estimated that more than 1,500 Alaskans have autism, Haas said, but she suspects the number is much higher today.

Putting together the second Anchorage Rocks for Autism was easy, Pederson said.

“The support from the community has been amazing,” she said. “People have been coming in that we didn’t even approach.”

Adding an Eagle River venue was also a success, Pederson said.

“This one is bigger than I expected,” she said.

Performing on the Boys & Girls Club stage gives bands the opportunity to play an all-ages show — which is rare — and give back to the community, said Bobby Ziegler, front man for Pretty Birds That Kill.

“It’s nice to help out,” he said.

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