Jimmy Kays continues to grow and expand his charity fundraising event, "Over The Rainbow"both locally and nationally.
The third-annual Over The Rainbowwhich Kays describes as "an upbeat celebration of love, life and what makes our community strong"is scheduled for Wed., Nov. 13, 7-10 p.m., at Sidetrack in Lakeview, once again benefitting Gilda's Club Chicago, a cancer support community.
The first two Over The Rainbow events, plus T-shirt sales, have raised more than $27,000.
"I feel like each year tops the year before, so I'm looking forward to all of the talented people who I've managed to get together under one roof to perform," at the 2013 Over The Rainbow, said Kays, 37, who lives in Wrigleyville and works as the night manager at Sidetrack. He started Over The Rainbow in honor of former Chicago resident Gio Cosentino, who died on Aug. 21, 2011, from colon cancer.
"[The event] also is a time for me and Gio's family and friends to get together and honor his life in a way he would want us to. My only goal each year is to continue raising money in the fight against cancer and to put on one hell of a show that will keep people wanting to come back each year."
This year's Over The Rainbow will feature local performers Sami Grisafe, Stephen Leonard, Cyon Flare, Tajma Hall, Sharriese Hamilton, Circuit Mom, Chadwick Stadt, plus Molly Callinan featuring Rose Laguana. In addition, Matt Alber will be performing.
"I met Matt a few times when he has been in Chicago performing and he is a very sweet, down to earth guy, and I am a huge fan of his music," Kays said. "I emailed Matt back in February, asking him if he would be a part of Over The Rainbow [in November], and he said, 'Yes.'
"I want my entertainers to express themselves through their music, so I let them have full control over what they do. However, I'm sure Matt will sing End Of The World being that it's his most known song. I'm also hoping that he performs Monarch because it's my personal favorite."
Southwest Airlines has again donated a round-trip airline ticket that attendees will have a chance to win, Kays said. There also will be a wide variety of silent auction items.
"I want Over The Rainbow to mean something different to everyone. To me, Over The Rainbow is Gio living on forever by helping others dealing with cancer," Kays said.
Kays also has scheduled "Over The Rainbow 2 1/2" for Oct. 9 in St. Louishis hometown.
"I am originally from St. Louis and a lot of my family and friends back home are not able to make it to Chicago for the benefits, so I thought it would be cool to take Over The Rainbow back home and let everyone have a little glimpse of what I do here in Chicago," he said. "I also have a really good friend who was diagnosed with sarcoma in her left breast back in 2011 and had to have a mastectomy in 2012. She is a single mother and went through radiation and chemotherapy all while taking care of her young son. She was so brave through all of it and I am happy to report that she is officially cancer free. Over The Rainbow 2 1/2 is a celebration of her life for all of our friends to get together and help raise money for an organization called 3 Little Birds 4 Life (3LB4L), a foundation that grants wishes to young adult cancer patients.
"I learned about this organization because they are granting a wish by sending my friend and her son to Chicago this summer."
Kays also announced he is now selling a new Over The Rainbow T-shirt to benefit charity. Make that, charities, since Kays is expanding the support of Over The Rainbow.
"Last year, I got to thinking that it would be cool to team up and help raise money for other well deserving organizations," Kays said. "With the help of the guys over at Icandee, who produce the T-shirts, we came up with the four charities. The proceeds from Over The Rainbow T-shirts will now benefit a different charity each quarter in 2013."
The first charity is Barriers Against Repeated Cruelty (B.A.R.C), which works to end abuse to animals, and supports those animals in domestic violence situations and those abandoned and left to die in animal control facilities. The second charity is Fred Says, a non-profit that raises money to help HIV-positive teenagers. The third charity is The Night Ministry, which provides housing, health care, outreach, spiritual care, and social services to adults and youth who struggle with homelessness, poverty and loneliness. Finally, T-shirt sales also will support 3 Little Birds 4 Life, which enhances the lives of adult cancer patients, ages 18-40.
"My goal is to help more people and at the same time spread the word about Over The Rainbow," Kays said. "Being able to design artistically is a gift, unfortunately, it's a gift I was born without. That's why I'm thankful I have my graphic designer, Ricky Bole. He is the one who came up with the whole bird concept for Over The Rainbow and my logo. I texted him at the beginning of May and told him that I was thinking about coming out with a new T-shirt design. I told him to just start thinking about it, as I wasn't looking to do this until next year. The very next day he emailed me a new design and I loved it."
For more information about Over The Rainbow, visit www.facebook.com/overtherainbow773; Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .