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Slaying Cancer with (Imagine) Dragons at the ‘Rise Up’ TRF Gala

Slaying Cancer with (Imagine) Dragons at the ‘Rise Up’ TRF Gala

–By Stacey Gualandi

“Everyone has a hero. I gave birth to mine.” 

When Cheryl Lingenfelter made that touching tribute to her 9-year-old daughter Savannah—who beat leukemia twice—she captured (for me) an emotional, magical moment at the Tyler Robinson Foundation’s 6th Annual “Rise Up” Gala inside Wynn Las Vegas.  

Formed by Las Vegas’ resident rockers Imagine Dragons in 2013, the non-profit broke previous records by raising a whopping $3.2 million during this National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. More than 85 percent of every dollar goes directly to desperate families who need both emotional and financial support after a childhood cancer diagnosis and in just 6 short years, it has helped over a thousand families.  

“My worst nightmare would be if my children would have a diagnosis of cancer. Anybody who has a child knows that,” says lead singer Dan Reynolds. 

The father of two says it all started with a Facebook message, and 16 year old Tyler Robinson’s brother posting that the Imagine Dragons song, It’s Time, had helped Tyler cope with his cancer treatments. The Grammy-winning Dragons soon met their number one fan and a friendship was born. Shortly after Tyler passed away from brain cancer 2 years later, the Dragons formed the foundation with the Robinson family. 

Reynolds says there is nothing more rewarding than working tirelessly for families in crisis, like the Lingenfelters. “I think when we’re able to ease something in their life and bring a smile to their face, that brings us more joy than being on stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It kind of shows you what matters in life.”  

A star-studded list of supporters hit the red carpet for this year’s event on Sept. 6, including the Vegas Golden Knights, actress Alexandra Daddario, singer Daniel Emmet, Euphoria star McKenna Roberts, and TRF Honorary Chair Shaquille O’Neal, who personally donated multiple $15,000 gifts.  

“I love children,” says the 7-foot-1 basketball legend. “I understand Tyler’s story. I don’t understand what parents go through, but I’ve heard the horror stories. A lot of them are not financially able to keep up. [This foundation is] all about helping people.”

Over 850 guests were on hand to see philanthropic honorees Zappos, Corner Canyon High School and artists Tim and Amy Cantor, capped off by an acoustic set of the band’s greatest hits.  Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman also made a surprise stop to proclaim Sept. 6, 2019 “Imagine Dragons Day in Las Vegas,” for “these generous souls and everything they do for humanity.”

You could feel the spirit of Tyler Robinson throughout the night, and it made me ask Reynolds  what his young friend would say about all the people who rise up in his honor?  

Reynolds paused for a moment, then said of his hero, “I think he would say: ‘What’s next? Let’s go! We’ve got more work to do!’”

Rock on, Tyler.

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