Chester Bennington met with patients at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa on Friday, Oct. 25, a day before the annual Stars of the Season fundraiser the multi-platinum rocker is set to headline for the third straight year.
Bennington is good with kids, getting the patients, who range in age from 12 to 17, to talk about video games, social media, sports and other interests after setting the tone for his visit by going around the table asking them how old they were, then saying “I wish I was any of those ages.”
Whether sitting with children or rocking the mike at the benefit, donating time at the hospital is a family affair for the Phoenix-born rocker, who lives in Gilbert with his wife, Talinda, their children and Bruiser, the family’s Boston Terrier, who also volunteers at CCMC as a therapy dog.
Bruiser couldn’t make the Friday meet-and-greet, but Talinda was there, as was the host of this year’s benefit, L.A. radio personality Ted Stryker.
It was Talinda, a Stars of the Season advisory council member, who initiated the Bennington family’s involvement in the hospital.
“She got involved before the hospital was even built,” the rocker says. “She initially wanted to do the dog therapy program. So we got one of our dogs involved. But my wife is very charismatic and outgoing, so immediately, she was on the board. And she helped organize the entertainment for the benefit. I, of course, support her in all the things she loves to do and she’s a really giving person. So it’s hard not to be excited about that.”
Two years ago, Bennington shared the benefit’s spotlight with Art Alexakis of Everclear. Last year, his other musical project, Dead by Sunrise, performed. For this year’s event, he assembled an all-star band with the Cult’s Billy Morrison, Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens, Elias Andras of Dead by Sunrise and Robbie Merrill of Godsmack.
“I wanted to do something really fun,” Bennington says. “And I wanted to bring a bunch of guys who are really good at what they do and enthusiastic. I actually play a lot with Billy Morrison. We’re in a band called Camp Freddy together. It’s a bunch of rock stars who get together and hang out and have a good time playing covers of other people’s music. So that’s how I got to know Billy.”
He wanted Camp Freddy to play but a few of the guys couldn’t make it, so he put this one-time-only group together, holding onto the Camp Freddy premise of getting together to jam on covers.
“We’re gonna play songs by the Beatles and Dylan, the Who and David Bowie,” Bennington says. “So it’s gonna be a good time.”
Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program at CCMC, which provides care for children born with congenital heart defects or who develop heart conditions early in life. According to the hospital, approximately eight of every 1,000 newborns have congenital heart defects, which can range from mild to severe.
“For me,” Bennington says, “the best part of doing these benefits is when you’re at the event and you see all these people really excited about contributing and then watching the hospital grow. This place didn’t even exist four years ago. And now it’s the epicenter of care for all these children. Four years ago, they would’ve been sent to another state. They would have to be turned away because there wasn’t enough room in the one floor that was here before. So this has really become quite an amazing place for these kids.”
Stars of the Season, which also features cocktails, dinner and an auction, starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Montelucia Resort & Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale. Tickets start at $250.