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REO Speedwagon’s Columbus concert benefits more than fans

Courtesy of MCT

REO Speedwagon seemed to have hit a homerun for charity and its Columbus concert-goers Thursday.

The 80’s rock ‘n’ roll band performed Thursday at Huntington Park as a benefit for Buckeye Ranch, a charity that provides mental health treatment services for children and families. The event raised an estimated more than $160,000, said Nick Rees, president and CEO of Buckeye Ranch.

A stage was set up at the field’s second base marker and the band started its set with three songs before performing its hit “Take it on the Run.”

University of Illinois dorm roommates, Neal Doughty and Alan Gratzer, founded the band in 1967 in Champaign-Urbana. They named it REO Speedwagon after a flatbed truck. Doughty is the only original member remaining.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Kevin Cronin, who joined the band in 1972, has a cameo role in new movie “Rock of Ages,” which hit theaters Friday. Cronin mentioned the movie before singing its featured song “I Can’t Stop This Feeling.”

“I will never be able to sing this song with a straight face again,” Cronin said.

The band played between rock and pop music. Cronin referred to its classic rock songs as the “heavy artillery” and “secret weapon.” He then engaged the audience in clapping to “Back on the Run.”

After a brief break, the group returned on stage for an encore. Cronin sat at the piano and played “Keep on Loving You,” off the band’s 1981 album “Hi Fidelity,” which is the highest selling rock LP of 1981, selling nearly 10 million copies.

“Three simple piano chords changed our lives,” Cronin said.

The band played for about 80 minutes and ended the evening with “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”

Buckeye Ranch partnered with the Columbus Clippers and QFM96 radio station, and sold more than 3,500 seats at the $20 and $25 levels. On top of that, 400 to 500 tickets were sold for the bash event, which included dinner, drinks and a silent auction.

Doug and Brenda Dodd of Cambridge, Ohio, heard about the concert on the radio.

“We thought it would be a fun time,” Doug Dodd said.

The appeal of the concert for Steve and Charlene Shaffer of Kimbolton, Ohio, was an older audience.

“It’s great fun for us 40-somethings to go out and have a good time,” Steve Shaffer said. “It doesn’t happen enough.”

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