Friends And Family of Ronnie James Dio Say, To Hell With Cancer

Ronnie James Dio was a larger-than-life personality while fronting Rainbow, Black Sabbath and, of course, Dio. His stature was immense, almost visibly transcending his physical height of 4’11”. It’s generally accepted that he had one of the very best voices that the metal world has ever seen, and the vast majority of the people that knew him can’t speak highly enough of him. It’s fitting then that, even in death, Ronnie is helping people.

The third annual Ride for Ronnie takes place on Sunday, May 7, organized by Ronnie’s widow Wendy and the board members of the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. The ride starts at the Harley-Davidson dealership in Glendale, and ends at the Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino, where there will be live music, food and drink, vendors, auctions and raffles. In 2016, $50,000 was raised for cancer research, and everyone involved hopes to beat that this year. The whole thing has grown fast after the first year saw 150 riders and 500 total attendees. Last year, 350 people rode, and there were 1,500 people at the park.

“We were trying to think about making money,” says Wendy Dio. “We had the usual galas and stuff, but they seemed to cost so much to put on. The idea of the ride came up and seemed like a good idea. We raised $50,000 last year for research and education, and every penny we raised goes to where it’s supposed to go. We have no administration costs whatsoever, with aboard of 14 people. All volunteers and all good friends of Ronnie’s.”

For Wendy, who we must remember lost her husband to gastric cancer in 2010, it’s therapeutic to be able to do something to help people suffering from something similar — to use the good name of Ronnie to achieve something special and perhaps save some lives along the way.

“It’s like taking something bad and trying to turn it into something good,” Wendy says. “Ronnie was always a great person for donating his time and his talent, for animals, for all different causes. Cancer research has come a long way — breast cancer is not a death warrant anymore and that’s fantastic. We’re trying to concentrate on men’s cancers: stomach cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer — there doesn’t seem to be as much money being spent on research for those. We also try to educate men — early detection saves lives.”

It promises to be a spectacular day, with live performances from Lynch Mob, Rough Cut, Eddie Money, Steven Adler (of Guns N’ Roses), and the Dio Disciples. The event will be MC’d by Eddie Trunk (of That Metal Show and various radio shows), and Wendy says that everyone on the bill was carefully handpicked due to their close relationship with the Dio family circle.

Naturally, that’s the case with the Dio Disciples, a band consisting mostly of former members of the Dio band, filled out with close friends. Craig Goldy plays guitar in the band, and he says that he’s just happy to donate his time to keep the memory of Ronnie alive while raising money for a great cause. Meanwhile, he’s convinced that Ronnie would approve.

“(Ronnie) was such a kind and generous man that I think we’d have his blessing,” Goldy says. “I think this is what he’d want us to do. He never liked to sulk. He was never above anything. If the people who showed up in the truck to unload for rehearsal were late, he’d be the first one unloading the truck. Ronnie was so loved and so powerful that if we did nothing, he’d be remembered. But he’s our family, and when family members die, those left behind try to do stuff to keep their memory alive.”

While Wendy Dio will be enjoying the motorcycle ride part of the day from the back of Harley, wearing her pink Harley jacket, Goldy says that he’ll leave the ride to the people who are more suited to it after a nasty skateboarding event a few years ago.

“I turned sharply to avoid a kid and the wheels went on me,” he says. “I went flying into a concrete pillar and my thumb came out of joint. It was a week before I was supposed to play a concert. Luckily I just pulled it back into joint and it works fine. But that was the day I decided that I probably shouldn’t take unnecessary risks. If I’m not safe on a skateboard, I don’t think I should be on a motorcycle.”

The Dio Disciples will perform a set of Dio favorites on the day, with fellow Dio alum Scott Warren (keys) and Simon Wright (drums) in the band. There’s a rotating lineup of vocalists, but current Sweet frontman Joe Retta will sing on Sunday.

“Joe was singing in a Dio tribute band at a party Ronnie was at when we first heard him,” Goldy says. “Ronnie was such a gentleman — when they took a break he went over and told him how great he thought he was. Took the pressure off, because Joe was so nervous having to sing Ronnie’s songs in front of Ronnie. That’s how that connection started.”

Hey, if Ronnie James Dio says that Joe Retta does a great job with songs like “Holy Diver” and “Last in Line,” then it should be good enough for the rest of us. Plus, the band incorporates holographic images of Ronnie when possible, so we get the best of all worlds. The show will, says Wendy, be family-friendly, and there’s a ton of great prizes to be auctioned and raffled.

“(Ronnie) didn’t ride (motorcycles), but he got on well with people that rode them,” Wendy says. “A lot of bikers come to our shows. They’re really good people and they’ve helped us a lot.”

The Ride for Ronnie starts at Harley-Davidson of Glendale from 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 7; 3717 San Fernando Road, Glendale. The ride goes to Los Encinos State Historic Park, where the sappy and concert will take place between 11:45 a.m. and 5 p.m.; 16756 Moorpark Street, Encino. $40 per rider and $10 per passenger. Concert admission alone is $30. Go here for more info.

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