May 2, 2005

Benefit Concert Raises Money for ALS Victim Buckley

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Songs rang out from the First Congregational Church on Saturday as friends, co-workers, and supporters gathered to use their musical talents to honor Carol Buckley, a Cornell library staff member.

Buckley is a beloved member of both the Cornell and Ithaca communities, who has been diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The concert, entitled “Love Notes”, was held to honor Buckley, and also to raise money to support her and her family as they deal with this serious disease.

“Carol moved to Ithaca when she was about ten, and went to the Ithaca schools,” said Jennifer Lawrence Birnbaum, the coordinator of the concert. She went to Tompkins Cortland Community College, and since 1989, Buckley has been a member of the Cornell staff, working at the Olin library circulation desk, and training student workers.

She was also very actively involved with performing arts throughout Ithaca.

“She had the most beautiful voice,” Birnbaum said, “she performed all the time.” The concert, which focused mostly on classical pieces, “was just a small representative of what Carol loved” Birnbaum said.

“She sang in the Class Notes as a staff person … and sang with the Ithaca High School Choir,” she added.

She was also involved with productions put on by the Kitchen Theatre, and the Hangar Theatre. “She was a church soloist … [and] was really involved in Cornell Savoyards,” and was “an original member of Women’s Works,” Birnbaum said.

The benefit concert included pieces requested by Buckley, original compositions by some of the artists, and even a piece composed by Buckley herself. The performers ranged from the Cornell Savoyards, to a choir made up of area residents.

Of the choir, Birnbaum said, “I want you to notice how many places from around the audience they’re coming, it’s the same number of places from around Ithaca that people have called me wanting to help Carol.”

“We just knew her through singing,” said Michelle Paisley, a member of The Women’s Chorale at 171 Cedar, which performed at the concert. “When we heard that she had [developed] Lou Gehrig’s we wanted to help in some way, and this was a good way to do it.”

But more than just her musical connections, most people at the event talked about her personality. This is “a time where we can reach out to Carol and just thank her … for making our lives better and brighter,” said Rev. Doug Green, the senior minister at the First Congregational Church, Buckley’s church.

“This last year, Carol and Paul [her husband] and all the friends here have taught me more about humility and love and grace than all my years at seminary,” Green said.

“She is just incredibly well-loved because she is just so gracious, and so fun to be with,” Birnbaum said.

“Carol is an inspiration to everybody,” said Donna Mott-Lange, founder of the ALS association of upstate New York, who handed out bracelets reading “Strike Out ALS” compliments of Ted Buckley, Carol’s father, as well as information about ALS.

ALS is a “neuro-degenerative disease, that affects the muscles in the body,” Mott-Lange said. The chapter “covers all of upstate New York, and provides patients and families with resources and information.”

The chapter “[has] support group meetings and a loan closet of medical supplies,” according to Mott-Lange. The association holds a “Walk to Defeat ALS,” to raise funds, and focuses on support and information.

“Our sole existence is to help the patients and families afflicted with ALS,” said Steven Lange. When asked why she organized the concert, Birnbaum said, “We have always thought Carol was fabulous, and have sung with her in various capacities over the years. … When we found out that she was sick … I wanted to do anything I could to help.”

“We certainly did not expect to have the response that we did,” Birnbaum said. “If we had put in every piece that everyone wanted to do, it would have been a five-hour concert.”

She estimated that about 330 people attended the concert, and several thousand dollars were raised.

The proceeds are “all going to Carol and Paul to be used however they need,” Birnbaum said. The funds may be put toward the costs of building a handicap ramp for the back of the house and making their bathroom handicap-accessible.

Archived article by Megan Blanchard
Sun Staff Writer