JB and Friends Annual "Hannah's Buddies" Charity

House of Blues Orlando
Sat, February 09, 2008

tickets on sale 11/26/07
ticket price $39.50

Each year, John Bell invites various musicians to join him in performing at the annual Hannah’s Buddies event.

“There is no better feeling than when you can use your natural talents to help someone,” said Percussionist Jeff “Birddog” Lane of Outformation.

About the Hannah’s Buddies Charity Classic

Hannah Elliott was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in 1997. Soon after, Hannah’s parents, Laurie and Duncan Elliott, started Hannah’s Buddies in an effort to raise funds to support FightSMA and increase awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

The Elliotts’ good friends, John Bell of Widespread Panic and his wife, Laura, wanted to do something to help. John agreed to hold an annual benefit concert and golf tournament in support of Hannah’s Buddies. The first benefit was held in 2000, with approximately 100 golfers participating in the event. The event has continued to grow over the years and in January of 2007, over 230 golfers participated in the Hannah’s Buddies Charity Classic.

Interview With Hannah and Esme:

MB's interview with Hannah and Esme took place on Saturday, January 20th,2007 the eve of Hannah’s 11th birthday, at the Orlando House of Blues.

MB: Now I would imagine that this is a pretty exciting time for you, am I right? Is this something you look forward to all year long?

Hannah: Yeah, I look forward to it a lot, partly because I usually get to go to Disney World and it’s just fun. All of the people here are always really nice.

MB: Now is it usually around your birthday every year?

Hannah: Every year except last year. It was in February last year.

MB: This is a pretty great way to celebrate your birthday!

Hannah: Yeah it is!

MB: Now Esme, is this your first time here?

Esme: Yes, this is my first time here but two years ago they invited me to come, but I had to go down to West Palm Beach. It’s really exciting for me to be here. All of the people here are really nice. I have met a lot of really fun people. And the hotel is awesome, so it’s really cool!

MB: That’s great! Now what hotel are you staying at?

Hannah: The Grand Cypress.

MB: That’s very nice over there! Now Hannah, I’m guessing that you are a Widespread Panic fan. Have you ever been to a Widespread Panic show?

Hannah: No, I have not.

MB: Well what other kinds of music are you into.

Hannah: Well, I like pop and not so much country.

MB: Who would you say is your favorite?

Hannah: Hmmm….

MB: Do you like Britney Spears?

Hannah and Esme: NO!

MB: Justin Timberlake?

Hannah and Esme: NO!

Esme: She likes Fergie!

Hannah: Yeah, I do like Fergie!

MB: Ahh, Fergilicious!

Hannah: Yeah.

MB: So do you like the Black Eyed Peas then?

Hannah: Yeah, I love the Black Eyed Peas!

Esme: Beyonce is really good too! I like “Irreplaceable”, umm, sometimes I listen to things like “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera.

MB: She has an amazing voice!

Esme: Have you ever heard of Avril Lavigne?

MB: Absolutely!

Esme: She has some pretty good songs.

MB: Right on!

Hannah: I like Drake Bell. He has really good music and he’s cute! I pretty much like everything that Esme likes.

MB: That’s great! Now what does it mean to you that all of these people get together in your name to help out

Hannah: I think it’s really great. It’s surprising how many people participate and everything. I think usually they’re here for JB, but then I have to think they’re here for me too. And everybody is really nice. Everybody knows me. It’s really good.

MB: You know, you’re kinda famous!

Hannah: Yeah, for the weekend, I turn into some kind of famous person.

MB: Does it drive you crazy, having everyone coming up to you, taking your picture all the time, or do you just love it?

Hannah: Umm, well I like it sometimes, but sometimes it can get old after like picture after picture and stuff like that. Sometimes I kind of have to go like hide away for a while. And then I go back. I mean, I never get all mad or anything like that.

Esme: Today, when we were at the golf tournament, Hannah told me that she’s famous and that sometimes people wanted autographs with her. I was like oh, it can’t be that bad! And then I went there today and everyone was wanting pictures. There was this guy and he walked up to her and was like, “I love you! I love you!”

MB: Oh my!

Esme: Yeah, and Hannah had no idea who this is. I was like, do you know this person? She said, no, not really. So it was really amazing that so many people came to help with SMA. I thought that was really cool.

MB: Yeah, it is very cool. Now how long have you guys been best friends?

Hannah: Since kindergarten.

MB: Wow, a long time!

Hannah: Yeah!

Esme: When we were in kindergarten, we got along pretty well. Well at the start, we kind of like ignored each other, but towards the end, we got to be really good friends. And I’d always help her, like if she wanted her feet up or down, helped her get things. So this whole time in elementary school, they have kept Hannah and I together in every class that we were in. So every year, we knew that we wouldn’t be alone. We would always have each other, so that’s nice.

MB: That is just wonderful!

Hannah: Yeah, after kindergarten, our moms realized that you know, I needed somebody to be there and everything.

Esme: I’m what they call their fourth daughter. (laughs)

Hannah: Yeah!

MB: I bet you need Hannah too, don’t you Esme?

Esme: Yep!

MB: Now what do all of the kids at school think about all of this? Do they know you are here this weekend?

Hannah: No they don’t and I’m a little worried, because this is the first time I have actually taken someone from my class. We really haven’t told our friends yet. One of our friends goes like crazy when we don’t include her in something, so we are a little worried about that.

MB: You know, I bet it will all be ok. Just tell them it was really boring, everyone was wearing a suit and tie….(we all share a laugh)

MB: Now I know when you were first diagnosed with SMA, your mom found out that there was not a lot of research being done and that there wasn’t much awareness out there about SMA.

Hannah: Well more people have come and definitely like, the researchers have found out a lot more. It’s getting closer and closer. That’s why we do this, so they can get to that point where they have a cure.

MB: Now what would you say, if you could send a message out to everyone, about how important it is to get involved in the fight against SMA?

Hannah: It’s not much to ask for. You’re going to have fun, but while you are having fun, you are going to be helping millions of kids.

Amen to that.

What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

“Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) refers to a group of diseases which affect the motor neurons of the spinal cord and brain stem. These critically important cells are responsible for supplying electrical and chemical messages to muscle cells. Without the proper input from the motor neurons, muscle cells can not function properly. The muscle cells will, therefore, become much smaller (atrophy) and will produce symptoms of muscle weakness. There are dozens of diseases which affect the motor neuron.

SMA kills more babies than any other genetic disease.

Degeneration and death of the motor neurons (also called Anterior Horn Cells) in the brain stem and spinal cord produces weakness in the muscles of swallowing, breathing, and limbs. This disease afflicts infants, children, and adults worldwide. It is estimated that SMA occurs in between one-in-6,000 and one-in-20,000 births. Recent advances in our understanding of the genetics of this disorder confirm that the majority of children and adults afflicted with SMA, have inherited this disorder by receiving one gene from both their mother and their father. This is termed autosomal recessive genetic transmission. Between one-in-40 and one-in-80 "normal" men and women carry the gene for SMA. If both a man and woman carry the gene, the chances are 25% that any of their children will manifest SMA.” – www.fightsma.org

To learn more about SMA and to find out how you can join in the fight against it, visit www.fightsma.org.