The ‘Spirit of Hope’ benefit

When fundraisers get planned, the organizers usually have some idea of what they’d like to do and who they’d like to feature as the guest artist that will bring people together around their cause.

That wasn’t the case with The “Spirit of Hope” Concert, however, which is planned for Saturday, Sept. 20, as a benefit for the radiation oncology program at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

It was John McDermott, one of the three original Irish Tenors, who suggested the idea to Dr. John McGee, his friend and the medical director of the radiology oncology program at OSF Saint Francis. The evening of prayer, education and entertainment blossomed from there and now includes the world premiere of “Let’s Live Today,” a song commissioned by Dr. McGee and co-written by McDermott and cancer survivor Kevin Hearn of the Canadian rock group Barenaked Ladies.

The benefit begins with a musical prelude at 3:30 p.m. and Mass at 4 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. The prelude sets the tone for the evening as “A Time to Remember, A Time to Hope.”

Those who are living with cancer and cancer survivors and their families are being invited to the Mass, which will be celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC. Joining McDermott in the choir loft will be Dr. Sherry Seckler, director of sacred music for the Diocese of Peoria, and the Cathedral Schola and Cathedral Brass; members of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra; guitarist Jason Fowler; McDermott’s own group, The Mistletones; and his music director and pianist Brigham Phillips.

Dr. Seckler said the music for the prelude and Mass includes a mix of styles, with selections from John Rutter’s “Requiem,” a traditional “Salve Regina” chant, settings of the “Ave Maria” and “Panis Angelicus,” and some hymns that may not be as familiar to American ears.

Following the Mass, there will be a reception at the bishop’s residence. Admittance to the cocktail party is by ticket only, as are all the events outside the liturgy at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The “Spirit of Hope” Concert with McDermott is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Peoria Civic Center. In addition to the music, the concert features an original video presentation, “A Day in the Life of Radiation Oncology,” by Gregg Olson, and the trailer for a new film collaboration about cancer awareness prevention by Dr. McGee and Eric Akeson, a recent graduate of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.

The evening ends at 10:15 p.m. with “meet and greet” festivities with McDermott at the Peoria Civic Center.

For more information about ticket packages, visit or call the OSF Saint Francis Foundation at (309) 566-5666.

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