Valley native Chester Bennington is known globally for the being in one of biggest rock bands in the world. Locally, he's become known for more than the rock anthems he creates with Linkin Park. The singer has a soft spot for children who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses and youngsters recovering from injuries. He has spent the past half-decade raising money for Mesa's Cardon Medical Center with his annual Stars of the Season charity event at Montelucia in Paradise Valley.
This year, the October 25 event raised $500,000 for the hospital, according to publicist Kristine Burnett. A table at the event cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 and sat seven to 10 people. A live auction followed dinner, raising more than $200,000 of the total, followed by a small, intimate performance by Linkin Park.
Each year before the event, Bennington pays a visit to the hospital and visits young patients and parents and to hear their stories. This year, Bennington and Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson toured the facility and met a young boy whose eyes lit up the second the pair entered his hospital room.
In past years, Bennington has performed with Stone Temple Pilots, Dead by Sunrise, and Camp Freddy, but on Saturday, he brought his Linkin Park bandmates with him. Though the ticket price was mighty steep, the event was packed to the brim. Attendees included current and past Arizona Diamondback players J.J Putz, Josh Collmenter, Brandon McCarthy, Jason Kubel, and NFL legend Steve Young.
The dinner portion of the evening was hosted by Ted Stryker from Los Angeles radio station KROQ and featured a live auction, featuring everything from signed guitars to a chance to freestyle rap or sing with the band onstage and raised thousands of dollars. Saturday's proceeds supported pediatric oncology and helped establish integrative cancer care in the hospital.
Linkin Park took the stage in the resort courtyard at 9:15 p.m., blasting through as much material as they could before the 10 o'clock curfew. While it was far from a crummy dive bar, it was interesting to see the band play in such an intimate setting with no production and families singing along to every word. During the band's last song, "Faint," Bennington pulled a young man onstage and shared vocal duties with him until the end of the song, when the kid stage-dived into the suit and ties -- the perfect exclamation point on a great night.
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