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Saturday, August 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  Fog/Mist
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All-star lineup of Madison musicians playing benefit for child battling cancer

Biff Uranus Blumfumgagnge, profiled in this week's Isthmus, is joining the rest of The Gomers -- along with Primitive Culture, Freedy Johnston, Duke Erikson, the Know It All Boyfriends and the O'bros -- at the High Noon Saloon tonight, for the sake of a little girl named Charlotte Elske.

The two-year-old has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive cancer that is more common in adults than people her age. She faces hard months of hospitalization and treatment. Her parents confront the twin difficulties of watching their daughter go through this, and paying the burden of bills that accumulate while fighting this affliction.

I'm writing this because almost 20 years ago, when I was in the hospital being diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was struck by the courage of kids down the hall. Courage they mustered despite their struggles to understand what was happening, and why it was happening to them.

Why? This was the question I heard more than any other asked by their young voices. They would ask why more than they would cry. Their consoling parents, nurses and doctors would try to answer as best they could, in ways the kids could comprehend. At the end of an explanation, the kids would sometimes ask why all over again. But sometimes they would say, "Okay," in a tone conveying involuntary courage. The kind of courage that stays with you and leads you to hope those kids might now be survivors in their 20s, happy to be alive.

In the photos of Elske posted to her blog -- maintained by her parents to keep family and friends updated while she is undergoing treatment at the hospital -- she looks like one of those kids overheard so many years ago. Despite the difficult months of hospitalization and treatment ahead of her, she displays a smile that will either break your heart or melt it. If it doesn't, you might want to check with your cardiologist to make sure you've got one and, if so, whether it's beating.

Tonight's "Love for Charlotte" benefit is all heart. Scheduled for 7:30 p.m., the 21-and-up gig is ticketed at $10 advance, $15 at the door. The benefit is sustained by the hearts of the performing musicians and those belonging to the audience that comes to hear and see them -- including those who join The Gomers onstage for Rockstar Gomeroke. In addition to the funky blues and reggae of Primitive Culture, the teaming of Freedy Johnston and Duke Erikson with the Know It All Boyfriends and the rock, jazz, R&B and world-beat menu of the O'Bros, an auction is also scheduled. All in the hopes that Charlotte Elske will survive to grow up, live well past her 20s and find herself happy to be alive.

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