Thousands of people will flock to Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood, Ill. this Saturday. Some will be there to hear Eddie Money, some will be there to see Warrant, and some will just be there in support. But they’ll all be there because of Andrew Weishar.
The 21-year-old passed away in October 2012 after a two-year battle with colon cancer, yet his legacy has grown bigger than most could have imagined since his death.
His family, led by his younger brother Danny, now 22, created the Andrew Weishar Foundation in early 2013 and has since created WeishFest in his name – an all-day music festival held on July 18 at Standard Bank Stadium, now in its third year.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Danny said, thinking about the sea of people that have attended WeishFest in its first two years. “You see thousands of people these having a blast and they’re all having a blast because of one reason, and that’s Andrew Weishar. They wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Andrew.”
In just three years, Danny has anchored WeishFest as a mainstay in Chicago’s south suburban summer and has helped it evolve from a small idea to a functioning, professional festival – a feat undoubtedly impressive and equally challenging. In its first year, the festival’s headliners were cover bands. Now just two years later, it’s welcoming platinum-selling acts like Eddie Money and Warrant, while also extending the entertainment with the Notre Dame football team and members of the 1986 Chicago Bears, who formed the band the Chicago 6.
“We’re very honored to get it to the point where it’s at,” Danny said. “It really sparked from the fact that all we really wanted to do was ensure that the foundation lived up to the name of the hero it’s named after. We really wanted to make this foundation big to carry on the legacy of Andrew Weishar. To do that, we had to create something that stood out. We could’ve gone with the bean bag tournament, the softball tournament, or a fundraiser at the bar or stuff like that, but we wanted to do something different. And nothing in our area is like our event.”
The Andrew Weishar Foundation is a non-profit that donates 100 percent of the money it receives to families who are battling cancer. The foundation writes the family a check and leaves it up to them to do what they choose with the money, whether it’s helping pay off medical bills or buying groceries.
WeishFest is one of the most important days of the year for the foundation, both in raising money and in celebration of the gracious life Andrew led.
It was Andrew’s idea to create the foundation, according to Danny, whether he meant to or not.
Andrew was briefly in remission during the first year of his fight against cancer and at that point he told his father, Don Weishar, that his goal was to use the gift of his life to repay the kindness he received during his fight with the disease. And just days before his passing, Andrew reminded his family of his wish: “Pay forward the kindness that we received.”
The original plan for WieshFest was to host the event at Brother Rice High School in south Chicago, Andrew’s alma mater. Danny said they were planning to have sports tournaments inside and then lead the crowd out onto the football field for a concert. But after thinking it over, Danny and Don, decided to search for a venue where they could make the event into an all-day music festival.
Running a non-profit organization isn’t easy, however. Every single expense the Andrew Weishar Foundation incurs takes away from the amount of money they can give to families, Danny pointed out.
“It’s a very large event,” Danny said. “You have to pay for the acts, you have to pay for the stadium, for everything that’s involved with it. It’s tough, especially as a charity, because all you care about is one thing: making sure you have enough to pay these families.”
But to raise money, you have to spend money. And the Andrew Weishar Foundation has raised money – a lot of it. The foundation has donated to over 20 families and multiple cancer causes since the foundation began in early 2013 – something the Weishar family knows Andrew would be beyond proud of.
“This is exactly what he was looking for,” Danny said before laughing about what Andrew would say. “If he were here, he’d probably ask us to take his name off the signs, but this is exactly what he was asking of us.”
Purchase tickets and find out all the info on WeishFest here.