Columbine grad organizes concert to help homeless youth

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By AJ Vicens

Leif Sunde wanted to help Stand Up For Kids, a nonprofit homeless youth advocacy group.

The problem is, as a 19-year-old student at the University of Denver studying biochemistry, music composition, business and Arabic, he doesn’t have the time to volunteer and have the impact he wants to have.

So, he decided to go another route.

“I decided we should throw a concert and raise money that way,” Sunde said. "At least I'll be using whatever talent I have for the benefit of others."

The idea hit him in the last week of June, and by mid-July he'd settled on the specifics. He lined up three bands to play a benefit concert Aug. 20 at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood. Local bands Sky Fox and Ashtree Close, along with Eye Alaska, a national band, will headline the concert event. Sunde, a talented acoustic guitarist and singer, will also play at the show.

Tickets are $10, with 25 percent of ticket sales going to the Gothic and the rest going to Stand Up For Kids. People can also make additional donations at the door above the ticket price to further help the organization. Sunde hopes to raise $10,000 at the event.

"Realistically, we're trying to raise every penny we can. But everything helps," Sunde said.

Stand Up For Kids, founded in 1990 in San Diego, aims to help people aged 21 and younger get off the streets and improve their lives. It's estimated that there are 1.5 million homeless people 21 and younger in the United States, with 1,300 of them in Denver alone. The group has branches in 30 states and Washington, D.C., with offices in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver.

"We're very excited about the concert," said Christina Morgan, the co-executive director of Stand Up for Kids. "We think that Leif is just doing a phenomenal job."

Morgan said Sunde approached them with the idea out of nowhere.

"We were just really surprised at what he wanted to do for us."

Morgan said that she'll try to bring some of the homeless children her groups work with to the show, but the money raised will help in more lasting ways.

Morgan hopes to use the money the concert raises toward a permanent office.

The problem with the Denver office is that it has no physical space, so it's hard for the group's volunteers to meet with kids for counseling and advising.

She's hoping to find an office with a storage area to hold the supplies the group's volunteers pass out to homeless kids four nights a week.

Sunde said he was hooked on trying to help the group as soon as a friend of his asked him to volunteer at one of its Sunday picnics. He saw a 13-year-old boy walking around with holes in his shoes, and he told himself he had to get involved.

His philosophy, though, won't let him do anything at the bare minimum, and it's the same thing when it comes to volunteer work.

"When you're helping people, you have to go beyond providing them with their basic needs," Sunde said. "You have to provide them their own avenue for achieving their needs."

He doesn't want homeless kids to get in the habit of accepting handouts for the rest of their lives, and that's what he appreciates about Stand Up For Kids.

"It's the way they go about reaching out to kids, not just handing out to kids," Sunde said.

The Aug. 20 benefit concert won't be his last fund-raising effort for the group. He's planning a trip next summer to play 100 shows in 100 days in the 48 continental United States. He'll be leaving the day after finals and returning the day before classes start in fall 2010. He's saving his own money for the trip and also looking for sponsors to foot the bills.

"Eventually, I want to be able to make a career out of music," Sunde said. "But the ultimate goal is to use music to influence the world in a good way."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.


For more information on the Aug. 20 concert to benefit Stand Up For Kids, visit www.gothictheatre.com. You can also e-mail Leif Sunde at admin@leifsunde.com or call him at 303-898-8995. He's giving away tickets to the show, so call him for a free ticket. More information about Stand Up For Kids can be found at www.StandUpForKids.org.