Best Buy Presents Heart & Soul
The 1998 Benefit for Camp Heartland
Camp Heartland was the dream of a young man from Wisconsin named Neil Willenson. In 1993 Neil heard about a boy from his hometown who was denied the opportunity to attend a summer camp because he was afflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus. With no idea of what he was doing, other than wanting to help this boy and others like him, Willenson and a bunch of his college friends raised $60,000 and sent 75 children to summer camp the following year. Camp Heartland has continued to provide this summer camp opportunity to children with HIV for the past 4 years. "He (Willenson) saw something that needed to get fixed and he did it," said local musician Mick Sterling who became involved with Camp Heartland in the fall of 1994.

Mick Sterling
1997 Bayfront Blues Festival
Photo © 1997 by Tom Asp - All rights reserved
At one of Mick Sterling's weekly Sunday night shows at Bunker's he was approached by Susan Leckey, the director of development for Camp Heartland. Leckey asked if Mick would be willing to hold a show to help raise money for the summer camp. "This was the day before Labor Day 1994," recalled Sterling, "and it was so loud in there I could barely hear her." They agreed to meet and talk a few days later where Susan asked if Sterling could do a show at Bunker's to raise money for Camp Heartland. Mick's response was unexpected. Instead of saying yes he would do a show, he said "I can do that but I don't know how much money you can raise, maybe a couple hundred bucks. Let me see if I can do something else." After tossing a few ideas around he came up with the idea of doing a week long series of shows at various venues around town during the spring of 1995, featuring some national and local musicians. "That's how Heart & Soul began," said Mick, "I just started making a bunch of phone calls. It all started like that, having Neil as the inspiration. I had never done anything like that before either, but I really felt like it was something that I could do. I liked the mission, I liked what Neil did, and having children myself, I could definitely identify with it, so it just kind of happened."

Starting with just a phone on a small desk in his basement and a willingness to help, Mick Sterling has been the spark in the Twin Cities behind what has become an annual musical Event. The Heart & Soul benefit has raised over $100,000 during the past 3 years for Camp Heartland and is the single largest fund raiser for the camp in the nation.

From that inauspicious beginning in Mick's basement, Heart & Soul has grown into an organization with over 500 volunteers with major corporate sponsors, media assistance and the support of both local and national musicians. "There are so many really good people helping out with this event," said Mick. "They are seeing the same thing that I saw when I first talked to Susan -- that Camp Heartland is worthy of a lot of praise. Their mission is really something that a lot of people can get behind and there is no way this could have gotten as large as it has without some unbelievable people helping out, all the volunteer and music people."

Because Camp Heartland offers free summer camp to children from all over the country, Heart & Soul has turned into an national fund raising music event. Speaking about the musicians who have expressed interest in helping out, Mick said "there is something different about this event that may not apply to some other events and I think the musicians see it. I don't quite know what that is. Whether it's just the whole vibe or just the actual mission (of Camp Heartland) itself, but there is something that is going on. Things are happening that are really good for us now. It's going in the direction I would like it to go" said Mick speaking about expanding the Heart & Soul fundraising on a national basis. "My goal for this thing has always been to make it a really legitimate event. Something that musically is very, very strong. It doesn't necessarily have to be one type of music, but a diverse musical event that attracts more national artists. It's a good charity to get behind. It's a legitimate national event that I'm hoping will be as big as some of the major blues festivals, that's my goal."

Corporate sponsors have also been instrumental in helping this benefit. Lifetime Fitness has been there from almost the start and this year Best Buy has also come on board as a national sponsor. "They have been instrumental to making this a reality. This is a music event national in scope so Best Buy is a great addition this year."

A major turning point for Camp Heartland occurred this year when they were able to purchase a permanent location for the camp. After 4 years of camps being held in different locations, Camp Heartland will open its new doors this June with a year round camp located in Willow River, Minnesota, between Hinkley and Duluth on Highway 35.

This year the Heart & Soul benefit is going to be the biggest to date. The first part kicks off at the House of Blues in Chicago on May 11th. Performers at the House of Blues event will be: Susan Tedeschi, Bernard Allison, Syl Johnson, and Mick Sterling with Renee' Austin and other national artists. The Minneapolis music event will be held under a huge tent in the parking lot of Bunker's just north of downtown Minneapolis over two days, May 16 and 17, 1998. The musical event will feature over 16 national and local acts with additional bands playing inside Bunkers. Acts include: Jonny Lang, Storyville, Syl Johnson, Bernard Allison, Susan Tedeschi, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Indigenous, Mick Sterling, Tony Sims & The Big Bang, The Big Wu, Shannon Curfman, Renee' Austin, G.B. Leighton, Jaqi Q, The Blenders, Long John Baldry, another major national act to be announced and more local bands. Tickets will only be available through Ticket Master (612-989-5151), starting April 8, 1998. Ticket prices if ordered by May 13: One day pass - $19.97; Two day pass - $34.97. Tickets after May 13: $24.97 for one day pass and $39.97 for two day pass. Tickets for children under 12 are $9.97 any time. Children under 3 are free. All music will be held under a tent. There will be a food court, merchandise area, children's area with different events and more! This limited room musical event will likely sell out so I would suggest you get your tickets early. For complete details on the other Heart & Soul events and the musical line up and set times, visit the Blues On Stage web site at:

The Heart & Soul lineup and set times is found at:

Additional internet information on Camp Heartland can be found at:

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at:

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Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.