House Music Saved My Life, what did it do for you? The question in itself is interesting. Can music really save one’s life? Simply put, yes. All of us here at United2nite truly believe that House Music has saved our lives in one way or another. Since the creation of this brand in late 2010-early 2011 we have been all about the music. We have had a lot of amazing shows, released some great merchandise lines and most importantly always stayed true to our original focus; the music. Now as we sit here in 2014 gearing up to kick start the “House Music Saved My Life Sessions”, a concert show series, we can’t help but ask ourselves what is the point? Where is the higher meaning and focus of all this? And just like that it hit us, why not actually help save lives through the use of House Music? With that being said we are extremely excited to announce our partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities. ALL THE HOUSE MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE CONCERT SESSIONS, FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, WILL GO TO BENEFIT THE CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES THAT RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE HELPS ON A DAILY BASIS! Don’t know too much about Ronald McDonald House Charities? That is ok because this week’s interview features Jim DeMaria, Vice President of Development at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago land and Northwest Indiana.
Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in the entertainment industry?
For 30 plus years I worked in the entertainment industry, more specifically the sports industry. I think a lot of times people don’t realize the fact that what we’re doing is a different brand of entertainment, but it’s still entertainment. We’re all about the customer experience. From the time you leave your house to go to the game, to the time you leave the stadium to come home from the game, it’s all about the experience. We tried to provide things throughout the course of the evening, that would entertain the fans when the actual game wasn’t taking place while still keeping in mind the game was the main focus and everything else was just an added entertainment factor. So from when there was a commercial timeout/ stoppages in play (ice hockey), to when the Zamboni was resurfacing the ice between periods, we always had something going on that would entertain the fans. That was part of the whole experience that we worked with every day. Another key factor was trying to be able to spin a story to the media that would paint your organization in a positive light. Winning and losing mattered most, but if there was a story you could tell that would really capture the minds of your fans who were watching, reading, or listening that story would make them want to come out and see your product.
What was it like working for the Chicago Blackhawks?
It was interesting, I mean working for any sports organization is interesting. My job focused mostly on dealing with the media and with the public, in terms of appearances, dealing with the players and dealing with upper management. I was very fortunate with the position that I held. I was the head of
five different departments. My main focus was on media relations, public relations, and broadcasting. I also helped form Chicago Blackhawk Charities back in 1994. We had the assets of being able to use our players to draw people not only to the team, but also to the charity. It didn’t matter if the team was winning or losing, we were fortunate at the time I was there that we had really nice people. The players would do various things for the charity throughout the community, and many of them were really good at it/ enjoyed it. So I kind of led all of those areas of the organization for 25 years. It was a good time, it was a good experience and it also gave me an opportunity to get creative, do things on my own, try to tweak things a little bit, try to make things a little better for what we were doing and grow the organization. When I took over, I was the only person doing that. After a while I finally expanded my staff and was able to get more people out in the community on a more regular basis I enjoyed it, I was there a long time and we had some good years and we had some not so good years, but I think from the overall aspect of being able to give back to the community and entertaining our fans, we did a real good job.
What was your favorite part?
It was being able to have the free hand to do what I wanted to do. It was great working for a man like Mr. Wirtz (Bill). He was always open to suggestions, new ideas and outside the box thinking. We were the first team to try a lot of new things. We always tried to put our fans first. We always tried to make sure that their experience was first and foremost. However, one thing that we never did that we should’ve done was put our home games on television. That was the one thing that Mr. Wirtz would never allow us to do. For example, if you watch a Hawks game now, you will see how the Blackhawk announcers interview one of the assistant coaches on the bench going into the 3rd period. That was an idea I had 15 years ago and we were one of the first teams to implement it. It was about having the fans feel like they were part of something. I also came up with a statistical program that tracked each one of our players against each team, individually and as a team. The coaches thought that was just a great tool for them in terms of preparation and getting ready for other teams. I was able to do a lot of things that they were never able to do before and I enjoyed doing them because I always thought we were adding to the whole way the team was operated. I had a good time doing it.
Is there anything you disliked?
Losing, but there was nothing I could do about that. I mean we had some good years and we had some not so good years. Unfortunately during the time I was there we never won the Stanley Cup. We came close, we got to the finals one year but we never won a Stanley Cup. That was the one thing I would like to have done.
What are you doing now?
Now I work with Ronald McDonald House Charities, in the Chicagoland Chapter. I’m their Vice President of Development so I’m out on the streets every day talking to people and trying to get them interested in working with the charity. There are a lot of things you can do to get involved. For example you can volunteer, provide financial support, or help refer us to others and try to get people more involved in learning about what we do.
Can you give us a little rundown on Ronald McDonald House?
We provide a home away from home for the families of children in the hospital with life threatening illnesses. When I say a home away from home, what does that mean? We have 4 Ronald McDonald Houses in the Chicagoland area. Each House is near a pediatric hospital. For example, we have one downtown near Lurie Children’s Hospital, one in Hyde Park near Comer Children’s Hospital at University of Chicago, one at Loyola next to the Loyola University Pediatric Center, and one in Oak Lawn near Advocate Children’s Hospital. We just broke ground last week on a fifth house which is going to be in Winfield, next to Central Du Page Hospital. So what do we do? For those families who have kids that are going to be in those hospitals, for any length of time, they have an opportunity, if they live further than a 10 mile radius of the hospital, to stay at one of our houses. It costs the families nothing to stay at a Ronald McDonald House. They’re in close proximity of their child and we want to help them just to focus on the health of their child. Statistics show that kids will heal 31% faster if they have a family member there every day. We want that family member to be there and we want that family unit to continue to be together. When I say family unit, that means mom, dad and all of the siblings can stay at that Ronald McDonald House and be as close to their sick child as they can be. So in a nutshell, when we say providing a home away from home, we’re providing a place for those families to stay where they can be together and still have all the amenities of home.
What do you like most about it?
You know, people ask me that a lot and I will say this. I was in professional sports for 33 years and I enjoyed the competition part of it. I’ve worked with the charity for a little over 3 years and I can tell you I find this position to be so much more rewarding than anything else I’ve ever done. That’s because when you go into a Ronald McDonald House and you see how the faces of the kids light up and the faces of their families light up, you know you are making a difference. We could never really truly understand what those families are going through because we’ve never gone through it ourselves. I would never say to a family I know what you’re going through because I don’t. However, what I do know is that what they’re going through is awfully difficult and anything that we can do to make it a little bit easier, I’m all in favor of. That to me is the most rewarding part of what I do.
What big things are going on with RMHC that you want people aware of?
Well like I said, we just broke ground on our fifth Ronald McDonalds House. It will be in Winfield next to Central Du Page Hospital. We will have 12 rooms in the house. The rooms will break down to a couple family areas, a couple of T.V. rooms, we’ll have a small library, a family pantry, a family kitchen and dining area, and a family laundry room. What that’s going to do is it’s going to allow us to house families who have children that will be having treatment at the Procure Center in Warrenville. That’s a minimum of a 6 week program for those kids and this will provide the families a place to stay so they don’t have to go to a hotel or commute hours to get to the hospital to see their child. When that house opens, combined with all of our other Ronald McDonalds Houses, we will be able to hold 152 families every night, 365 days a year, which is pretty incredible. I think that’s something that we can all be proud of.
Who’s your favorite House Music producer?
Oh that’s definitely Kings of Class, no doubt.
Have you ever been to one of our event?
I have actually gone to some events that you guys have put on. We went to the New Year’s Eve event at H.O.M.E and it was pretty incredible. I mean that was an unbelievable event for 2 reasons: number one because of how many people were there and number two because of everything that went on during that event. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of attention to detail and I think that you guys do an unbelievable job. I know it takes a lot of time and effort and think it’s well worth it when I see what you guys are able to do.
How do you feel about partnering up with House Music Saved My Life?
I think it’s great! First of all, I know Bobby of Kings of Class, has given a lot of his time to come out and play at our events where he’s done it strictly as a volunteer and never asked for a cent. I also know the company as a whole has done numerous apparel sales where the proceeds were donated to us. I think it’s great that you guys are doing this. I know sometimes you got to walk before you can run, but I know the guys have some big ideas about what they want to do and how they want to help
the charity, which I think is great! I also think that you have to be smart about it and I think you have to take things in stages. Hopefully as House Music Saved My Life continues to grow, we can be a part of it and grow with it. When Ronald McDonald House Charities started out we only had one house in 1974 in Philadelphia. The Charity has grown over the last 37 years, to 178 chapters in the United States and over 350 chapters worldwide, but it all started out with one. That’s the same thing here you got to walk before you can run. I think we’ve started to make some strides and hopefully we can continue to grow together. We’re not going anywhere and you’re not going anywhere so let’s try to continue to work together and find ways to grow together.
Do you think it will be a good cross promotional effort?
I know form our charity standpoint, if someone wants to partner with us then we’ll promote the heck out of it, because we believe a true partnership benefits both parties. Those are the only types of partnerships we’re interested in, where both parties benefit and in the process we’re doing a lot of good for a lot of people who need our help. We just have to be patient, we have to work hard and realize that with time we’ll be able to do a lot of great things as a partnership.