Sunday’s “One805 Kick Ash Bash” showcased musical talents to honor first responders while generating nearly $2 million in donations for emergency equipment and survivor relief following the Thomas Fire and deadly Montecito flash flooding and debris flow.
Area singers and celebrity star power turned out to support more than 2,000 emergency personnel gathered at Ursula and Patrick Nesbitt’s Bella Vista Ranch & Polo Club in Summerland to enjoy a day of live music, family-friendly activities and exhibits showcasing local response agencies.
The crowd gave senior members of the Santa Barbara County emergency response agencies a warm welcome when Patrick Nesbitt introduced them.
“I think everyone would agree … if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of our first responders, the damage would have been much worse,” said Nesbitt, the event committee co-chairman.
The majority of tickets available were gifted to first responders and their families, and remaining tickets were obtainable for public purchase.
“It’s generous of all the people to come together and put on an event that shows gratitude more than anything I’ve ever seen or heard of,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told Noozhawk. “They (organizers) did this out of the goodness of their heart.”
All funds raised at the benefit were directed to the Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance, where a beneficiary committee comprised of representatives from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department,the Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Barbara fire and police departments, and the California Highway Patrol determine allocations for funds and nonbudgeted emergency response equipment.
“Especially during the floods, we found that there’s equipment that we could use,” county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni told Noozhawk. “The money is going to good use. It’s incredible to see how this community has rallied together.”
Direct Relief determines funds for survivor aid, and the Santa Barbara Police Foundation’s At Ease program provides counseling services for first responders affected by the disaster, according to event organizer and co-chairman Eric Phillips.
Household names, including a surprise performance by pop star and Goleta native Katy Perry, took the stage.
“I got the opportunity to live in Montecito, so I feel like a real 805 girl,” Perry told the crowd. “This is my home. The energy and community is beautiful.”
Lauren Cantin, 14, who was found buried in the mud Jan. 9 under the ruins of her Montecito home after it was destroyed by the debris flow, was a featured soloist during a performance of “God Bless America.” The Santa Barbara Middle School ninth-grader sang alongside her Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble choir at Sunday’s gathering.
After her standing ovation performance, Lauren was reunited on stage with two rescuers who pulled her to safety.
“Thank you for the support … love you,” she told the cheering crowd.
Lauren’s mom, Kim, also survived the flash flood, but her dad, Dave, brother Jack and the family’s Irish setter perished in the disaster. Jack Cantin’s remains — along with those of 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa — have not been found.
Ashley Iverson, the pregnant widow of San Diego County firefighter Cory Iverson, who was killed in the line of duty Dec. 14 while fighting the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, announced her intention to create a foundation to help first responders communicate their trauma.
She urged the crowd to “open the door for communication, vulnerability, emotions and love with your comrades consistently.”
Many attendees wiped tears as Iverson spoke.
“As first responders, you are confronted by fear on a daily basis,” she said. “It’s my goal to change the mentality and culture that first responders come to the job leaving their day-to-day troubles behind.”
The six-hour concert and celebration also featured music from Alan Parsons & Friends, Katharine McPhee, Dishwalla, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx and Wilson Phillips, with Dennis Miller serving as emcee.
Montecito resident Ellen DeGeneres also made an appearance.