A person’s legacy is often defined after a life lived — recognized by others in hindsight after that life is over, making defining a legacy somewhat bittersweet. Such is the case with John White.
John White organized multiple fundraisers. Dubbed “A is for Awesome,” they often took place through multiple days in April (Autism Awareness Month), featuring local bands and artists and donating proceeds to various agencies supporting individuals with disabilities, including The Autism Project, RHD and the Trudeau Center.
Joann Quinn, executive director of The Autism Project said, “His energy and commitment to us was a bright spot in our work, our outreach and our connections with so many families.”
“He was always a friend of RHD and our participants,” RHD director Mark Stone said. “He didn’t have to donate money to us, but he did.”
After taking a year off, he got the itch to put another show together to raise money for The Autism Project and RHD. He assembled a lineup of bands, scheduled a performance by Spectrum Theatre Ensemble and created a special art fair. He was fine-tuning the details when he suddenly passed away, and White’s sister, Deb, took over. She recruited dedicated volunteers to assist her, turning the show into a memorial for her beloved brother.
“I knew that I needed to keep his dreams and passions alive,” Deb said. “No one can change what happened, but we all can continue to make changes in the world around us for the better.”
White was candid about the support he provided for individuals with disabilities. Many of his Facebook posts kept his followers updated while giving great insight into a group of people whose voices aren’t always heard. Not only did he raise money for many fantastic organizations that provide support for vulnerable individuals, but he raised awareness. He helped minimize the stigma of a misunderstood population, showing that everybody has the same needs and wants, regardless of their cognitive abilities. The title of the event itself, “A is for Awesome,” serves as a reminder of the goodness that all possess within.
White was well known for his soft spoken, friendly nature and his unique way of bringing people together. “John White represented everything that is great about the Providence area,” Eric Baylies, one of the A is for Awesome performers, said of his friend. “He was all about rock and roll and going way out of his way to help others.”
“His uniqueness came out in the way he seamlessly integrated these events in the arts to the point that they became something people looked forward to,” Terry Linehan of the Scurvy Dog said. “Usually benefits have a sad connotation. Not on John’s watch!”
“John’s love for music and generous, open heart led us to become good friends over the years,” event performer Malyssa BellaRosa said. “He was such a gentle spirit who went out of his way to help others regardless of any challenges in his life.”
White already had a good portion of the show arranged before he passed, including the date, which happens to be his birthday. Throwing a birthday party like no other, he wanted to give a gift to the community instead of receiving one.
A is for Awesome has become more than a fundraiser. It has become more than a concert and art fair. It has become more than an event that promotes awareness and understanding. It has now become a way to bring people together to celebrate John’s life and the positive legacy that he leaves behind.
A is for Awesome takes place Sun, Oct 6 at Pub on Park, 665 Park Ave, Cranston, RI 02910) from 3 – 10 pm. Bands/artists performing include The McGunks, Sonic Grifters, The Nebulas, Soapbox Saints, Love Power, My Mother, Eric Baylies, Jenn Lombardi, Malyssa BellaRosa and Jess Moroney. There will also be a performance by Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, an arts fair, vendors and raffles. Proceeds will benefit The Autism Project and RHD.