For those who don’t know me, my name is Matt DiRito. I'm better known for playing bass guitar in a world renowned rock band. I’ve grown up seeing a lot of rock and roll bands using their names for less than admirable things. For example, you may hear stories of people pushing their weight to get free drinks or admission to an event by using the line, “Don’t you know who I am?” I believe in breaking these clichés. I am trying to deflect that attention we receive and focus it on people who need it. It has become clear what I want to do and how to use that “power” of my name, and I encourage other public figures to do the same.
I have always wanted to work with kids. Children have no control over the circumstances they grow up in. They ALL deserve to be healthy and happy. In recent years of touring I have met an amazing family with a little girl who overcame cancer. Even more incredible than her triumph over cancer, was watching the way her family handled her recovery. They put an emphasis on having fun and lifting her spirits. Part of her recovery process was to FEEL good. Once she had the right mindset, her body seemed to follow. They often brought her and her sister to our concerts where I would play outside with them for hours. We’d doing things like skip hopscotch, blow bubbles, draw with sidewalk chalk and just act goofy. Being a part of this process made me want to reach out and help more kids in her position…. I started brainstorming ways that I could help families like hers and incorporate what I do for a living.
I started thinking about all of the out-of-pocket expenses they had on a regular basis. Families will often times throw fundraisers to help offset the cost of their large medical bills, but what about the smaller ones? All of the out-of-pocket expenses from day to day could potentially drown a family already struggling to get by. What happens when the nearest Children’s Cancer treatment center is 400 miles away? Things such as the cost of gas back and forth, a car breaking down, or even taking time off from work could make things very difficult. The last thing anyone should worry about is being able to get their child safely to the care they deserve.
Along comes “Star Treatments.” This idea, in its most basic form, is designed to take care of transportation needs to and from these facilities. Additionally- the child would receive the “Star Treatment” on the way to their chemo treatments. A family will have a tour bus pick them up at their front door, take them to the hospital and then back home… Simple right? Keep in mind that these tour busses are very accommodating. If the child is feeling sick after their treatment they can use the restroom onboard or lay down in one of the beds. Without being restricted to the driver’s seat, the parents are free to tend to their child during the lengthy trip.
In addition to comfort, we want to keep the element of fun too! The inside of the busses will have things such as kid’s movies, video games, coloring books, various toys and healthy snacks. Part of the “Star Treatment” means that the children will get care packages from different bands. Each time the child gets picked up they can look forward to t-shirts, posters, CDs, or maybe a signed teddy bear from a different band. Even a 10 second video of the band saying something like, “Stay strong! You can get through this! We believe in you!” Anything fun or creative that these artists can think of. There will always be something for them to look forward to as they experience this very special way to travel. The idea is to have the children get to the hospital with a happy heart, instead of being overcome with nerves and anxiety.
With this transportation in place (and driver included), it is possible for other people to chaperone the trips. If it lands within the work week, the child’s grandparents can opt to ride along. Having options like this could help these families retain a sense of normality or keep the parents from having to take too much time off from work. There is enough room on the bus (typically 12 bunk beds) that the child could have a few schoolmates ride along for support and company. This could be fun over summer break! Each trip could be something a little different.
I am starting by finding bus companies to work with. If they own 12 busses and only have 10 leased out, I can offer them a tax write off for a bus that would otherwise be sitting. Most drivers (in their downtime) are very willing to write off a few drives. My goal however, is to own a bus that has only ONE purpose, and is always stocked up and ready. Then, a fleet of busses, all in different regions of the U.S. to continually pick up and drop off these families. They could use the hospitals as hubs and make multiple runs each day. I can already see a bus pulling up with the words “StarTreatments.org” written down the side of it! I want to get bands, artists, athletes and even celebrities involved. I think it’s a fantastic way to take the spotlight that’s on them and divert it in the direction of someone who really deserves it. Giving them the star treatment, helping their families financially and keeping their attitudes positive will all greatly impact the healing process. I encourage all of you to share this with your friends, families, communities, celebrities, or anyone you feel could help! Thank you for taking the time to read this.
~Matt DiRito, Founder