Rock 4 Tots event at new location a 'perfect fit'

Macomb Daily

Ever since the former owner of Freddy's Bar & Grill died six years ago, Gino Gennora had hoped to land the Rock 4 Tots toy drive and charity event.

This past weekend, Gennora got his wish.

The Clinton Township bar hosted a two-day music showcase and toy drive for the Clinton Township Goodfellows. The place was packed for most of the weekend as visitors enjoyed 20-minute sets by about 50 bands and musicians in the charity effort that reflected the spirit of the venue's late owner, Freddy Craprotta.

"I have really been hoping for this," Gennora said Sunday. "It's the perfect fit. It's the perfect venue. Freddy was so generous, this would have been right up his alley. He would have loved what we have going on here."

Now in its 11th year the Rock 4 Tots has been in a variety of Macomb County locations. Every year, the number of fans turning out for the music -- and 50/50 drawings, raffles and visits from Santa -- grew as did the number of bands wanting to perform. Last year, organizers decided to make a jump to a larger bar and expanded it from one day to two days of fun and frolic.

Admission was $5 or a new, unwrapped toy. Last year's event raised about $10,000. Organizers expect to top that amount with this year's donations.

"This is amazing," said singer-songwriter Shelley Beth Miller, right before she went onstage for her set. "The whole vibe is completely selfless and it brings people together. I love it."

Event organizers "Loco" Joe Evangelista, Jimmy Klapp, Screamin' Scott Randall and Howie Herula say they now have more submissions from bands than slots available.

"We're on pace to about double the amount of toys we've taken in," Evangelista said. "And the mood seems to be more festive."

Randall, an on-air personality from WRIF-FM (101.1) said the group also attends a pinball charity event held at VFW (Vintage Flipper World) in Ann Arbor that people can drop toys off. He stores the toys in his garage until they are ready to be handed over to the Clinton Township Goodfellows for distribution.

"I can't even get into my garage because there's so much stuff in there," he said.