Last night, MAY 27, RICHIE SAMBORA was the Special Guest at the OCEAN COUNTY DRUG FORUM hosted by the PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE.
The evening was designed to be an educational program focused on raising awareness among students, parents and educators about the ever-growing danger of drug use, especially heroin. In Ocean County, more than 1200 lives were lost to heroin overdoses.
RICHIE committed to Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronado that he’d do whatever he could do to help raise awareness; so he performed live at the free event.
RICHIE flew the red-eye from L.A. to NEW JERSEY on Sunday night, staying with his mom.
MONDAY, Memorial Day, RICHIE and the band for this event at the PINE BELT ARENA in Tom’s River, New Jersey. After a long session (including learning, for the first time, a brand new song entitled “Lighthouse” written by Richie specifically for this event) the band and crew headed to M.J.’s Grill in Neptune, NJ for food (and some hockey viewing.)
TUESDAY, MAY 27 was the day of the show. RICHIE met with his team outside his mom’s home on the dock along the Manesquan River. The lyrics to “Lighthouse” were tweeked and then everyone headed back to Pine Belt Arena for another rehearsal and soundcheck.
Joining RICHIE for the soundcheck was the MANCHESTER HIGH SCHOOL CHORUS. Once the kids left to get ready for their big night, RICHIE and the band stayed onstage for hours rehearsing and reworking “Lighthouse” again… adding songs to the potential set list and learning new cover songs.
Doors opened at 5:30. By then, RICHIE was changed into stage clothes, joining Prosecutor Coronado for a 20-minute press conference, and doing interviews with the media in attendance. And finalizing the set list. And greeting friends and family who came to the show. Finally, it was showtime. The evening’s program of informational and educational speakers and sketches began.
MAUREEN MORELLA presented “JESSE’S JOURNEY” – the story of her son’s accidental overdose in 2008 that’s left him unable to walk, talk, or eat… It’s a heartbreaking but uplifting story and a cautionary tale about the danger of drugs that packs an emotional wallop. JESSE watched the presentation from alongside the stage before joining his mother on stage to ensure the impact of his story is not lost on the crowd.
RICHIE SAMBORA was up next. First, RICHIE thanked those involved in making the event happen. Here’s who he thanked:
Joseph Coronado – Prosecutor
Anthony Piero – Supervising Assistant Prosecuto
Everyone at the Juvenile Office.
Tammi Millar and her team here at the Pine Belt Arena
All the folks from Tom’s River PD
And the Attorney General’s office
And the New Jersey State Police
The kids of the MANCHESTER CHOIR
And everyone who turned up here to night
RICHIE then went on to explain why HE got involved in this event and why this issue is so important. Following were his notes (he improvised and spoke casually from the stage):
I’m here tonight because I’ve lost too many friends to this battle.
I’m here tonight because I know personally how difficult that battle with addiction can be. But I fought it and I’m blessed to be here happier and healthier and stronger than ever.
I’m here tonight as a member of this Jersey community which is losing too many of our kids to drugs… and leaving too many families devastated.
And I’m here as a father of a teenage girl. I’m scared for my daughter.
But we can’t be scared silent. And we can’t be paralyzed by fear.
That we’re all here tonight is a good first step and together we can make a difference because this epidemic has got to stop.
The MANCHESTER HIGH SCHOOL CHORUS then joined RICHIE on stage and performed a soulful and stirring rendition of the classic “LEAN ON ME.” Next up, the kids backed RICHIE on “LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER.” RICHIE let the CHORUS sing one song alone before returning to the mic and introducing FATHER BOB LYMAN, a friend of his family who has advised him over the years (Bon Jovi fans knows him well.) FATHER BOB offered a benediction and blessing to those struggling with addiction and those friends and family on the journey with them before RICHIE again took centerstage.
RICHIE introduced a new song, “LIGHTHOUSE,” (co-written with his friend, RICHIE SUPA, who he noted is twenty years in recovery from heroin addiction) which was composed especially to be debuted at this forum. RICHIE explained that when you’re at your lowest point, that’s when you need the most faith that you can turn things around… when you’re drowing in doubt and lost at sea, you need a lighthouse that will be a beacon to help you find your way back. The new song was moving and perfect for the occasion. (We’ll get lyrics up on this site for you ASAP; Richie plans to have the song on iTunes with proceeds from downloads to benefit the recovery community – more info to come.)
RICHIE then headed backstage and allowed the rest of the evening’s performers and speakers entertain and enlighten the crowd.
As the final performer on the evening’s run of show, RICHIE’s job was to offer some hope and lighten the mood. And he delivered. Below is the set list that was performed:
LEAN ON ME (with Manchester Chorus)
LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER (with Manchester Chorus)
LIGHTHOUSE (with Manchester Chorus)
EVERY ROAD LEADS HOME TO YOU
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
SEVEN YEARS GONE
STORYBOOK LOVE (Willy DeVille cover)
I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU
THE ANSWER (Richie on acoustic guitar & the song’s co-writer BRUCE FOSTER on piano)
TAKIN’ A CHANCE ON THE WIND
And then after 10pm, the crowd of thousands headed home while RICHIE headed backstage to cool off and clean up and meet the VIPS and all the friends, family and behind-the-scenes team who put the entire forum together. All in all, an important cause, a good deed, and a great night of music that will hopefully raise awareness.
*We’ll get the lyrics to LIGHTHOUSE posted here. And we’ll add photos exclusive to this website.