Annual Rock Me Don't Shake Me concert raises money to prevent child abuse
After the death of 4-month-old Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon in 2007, his family adopted the motto, “The World Needs a Little Justice.”
The slogan was a play on words of the name of the infant who was shaken by his mother’s then-boyfriend, and the family’s quest to bring the perpetrator to justice.
After nearly a decade of lobbying, a criminal justice reform bill was passed in Maryland in 2016, expanding the penalty for those guilty of child abuse resulting in death for a child younger than 13 to life in prison.
As a way to continue to advocate for child abuse victims and help with prevention, the family is planning its annual Rock Me Don’t Shake Me Musicians Against Child Abuse benefit concert for Saturday, April 14, at the Warehouse at Breakaway II Sports Lounge, 13726 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown.
Richard “Nink” Myers of Hagerstown, Justice’s maternal grandfather, said the event has been going on for years, and continues to grow.
“There are 10 bands playing this year,” he said. “So far we’ve outgrown three venues. This is the largest venue that I could find here in the immediate area that’s willing to work with us and help us bring awareness and help really with donations. All of our bands, our venue, everybody donates their time. This literally costs us no money out of pocket to do. So all of the money that we raise goes to help kids.”
One of the bands on the slate, South of Sobriety, singer and lead guitarist Chris Wagaman agreed that the event is getting bigger.
“It’s a good time, it’s a great cause. I don’t know why you wouldn’t wanna come out. Each venue they’ve had this at, we’ve played at, and they’ve outgrown them all. And if you wanna get on the train, now’s the time to do it because it’s blowing up and people are coming out and they money’s going to the right place,” he said.
Butch Barnhart, the frontman for party band Jester, has performed at nearly all of the Rock Me Don’t Shake Me concerts.
“I think that the Myers family has really put themselves out for this since day one, and it’s an amazing cause, and good family, good people, and it’s just a great community event to be involved in,” Barnhart said.
Kyle Stuhler, lead singer for Ever Rise, said his band is playing the show for the second time, and the cause is an important one.
“It’s for protecting kids. I can’t think of much things that are more important than protecting children. There’s not just better things you could donate your time for, and a better cause, in my mind,” Stuhler said. “It’s some of the best bands in the area all together in one night, and again, a great cause, and you know, the money is going to the right place for the right reasons and kinda kills two birds with one stone. You know, you’re supporting a great event and a great cause and you get to see a lot of good bands at the same time. So it’s a win-win.”
Owen Hendrickson, the bass player for longtime Rock Me Don’t Shake Me participating band South of Sobriety said child abuse affects everyone.
“I don’t believe that there’s anyone who hasn’t been touched in some way by child abuse, or child neglect. And this really does do wonderful things, not only for the community but the entire state of Maryland. The Myers family actually did lobby for legislation, and successfully at that, higher penalties for abusers resulting in the death of a child. So it’s holding the guilty parties accountable and that is a huge win just in the past five years that we’ve seen, and it’s pretty huge, really,” he said.
In addition to many returning bands, students from Maryland Institute of Music will participate for the first time at Rock Me Don’t Shake Me.
“We have one band that’s going to be coming out and they will be playing four or five songs, everything from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin,” said Rik Parks, founder of the Hagerstown-based school.
“This will be the first event that the students at the Institute will be taking part in. They’re really excited, they’ve been working real hard, and it’s gonna be a good day for them,” Parks said.
The atmosphere of the concert is worth coming out for, Parks said.
“It’s just a great event, it’s gonna be the party of the year. And it’s the best bands around. It’s just a huge party.”
Besides music, Saturday’s event will feature raffles and other giveaways.
“We’ll have a bunch of raffles. They’ll be a raffle when you come through the door. We call it our big basket raffle. It’ll have roughly $1,500 worth of stuff in it. And it’s everything from gift certificates to local establishments like Breakaway II’s, to different restaurants, and all sorts of things,” Myers said.
Admission to the show is by donation.
“I’ve had people before say I should put a price on it, but I refuse to do that. It’s going to be donations. Everybody else donates their time, so I’m not gonna tell somebody what they gotta pay to get in. Most people will come through and they’ll donate what they can. It’s all a matter of what they can afford,” Myers said.
Top photo: Ashley Rutherford, left, and her father Richard “Nink” Myers, organize the Rock Me Don’t Shake Me — Musicians Against Child Abuse concert, set for Saturday, April 14, at the Warehouse at Breakaway II Sports Lounge in Hagerstown. Rutherford holds a picture of her son, Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, who died as a result of child abuse in 2007. (Photo by Amy Dulebohn)