For many of us with wanderlust, the hometown holds a special place in our hearts. There's a certain magic in that town we came from and the people who nurtured us; for me, that place is Akron, Ohio, and the many great friends and family there. I've been fortunate that despite my far-off addresses, I've maintained close ties with my Midwestern roots.
Last year, when I was running FourByNorth Studios in Istanbul, I lost a dear and longtime friend to brain cancer. It's tragic whenever we lose someone close to us, but this friend, Dan Van Auken, had made an especially profound mark on my life and on those of many people who knew him. There are so many things I could share about what made Dan special, but an article written about him recently does a good job of capturing the essence of his impact.
Like many people met with loss, a group of his friends, family and colleagues — mostly from that special hometown of mine — wanted to do something to preserve his legacy. Dan had always been an avid runner, even throughout his treatment, and the goal to build a track in his name at the school where he had been a teacher seemed like a solid goal to rally around.
The Danstravaganza was born: two nights of concerts and raffles in Akron, featuring some of Dan's favorite bands reuniting for the occasion. The lineup included The Man I Fell in Love With, Houseguest, and Drummer, which features none other than The Black Keys' own Patrick Carney on bass. For our part, we donated a Handmade Indian Dhurry to the raffle, and I was able to make it home to partake in a magical few days of a community coming together to remember a really great guy.
The funds raised are still being calculated, but early accounts estimate we will have blown passed the minimum $28,000 needed to build a track. Dan made such an impact that even his middle school students are rumored to have raised $13,000.
It made not bring him back, but it was certainly a wonderful way to honor our friend and for me to pay tribute not just to the one I lost, but all the amazing ones who still live there.