KEITH KOZEL is best-known to his many fans around town as kinetic frontman of the epic glam-psycho-metal outfit GAM and member of sludge/stoner guitar army Superhorse.
But to his friends and family, he’s known simply as one of the most genuine and creative people they’ve ever known.
Kozel has given his all to Savannah’s arts and music community, and now he needs our help. He is diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder which will prove an incredibly daunting financial challenge.
His Superhorse bandmate and longtime buddy Jim Reed is helping organize fundraising efforts, chief among them this Saturday’s benefit screening of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure at the Lucas.
“The movie’s about a one-of-a-kind person who’s blessed with an almost supernatural amount of creativity, and driven to express themselves. That’s essentially how I see Keith!” exclaims Reed.
The amount of money Kozel must accumulate to receive a transplant and permanent aftercare “is, quite simply, massive,” Reed says. “Our current online fundraising drive and this Lucas screening are just the first stage of a multi-faceted charitable campaign that will likely be in full swing for between one and two years.”
For now, Reed says, in addition to benefit events, they hope to raise $35,000 online by the end of October at Kozel’s Give Forward page at www.giveforward.com
“We’re told that should be enough to allow his name to be added to the kidney transplant waiting list, and to start covering his substantial share of dialysis and medication costs,” he says.
“We have a ton of other very cool and unique benefit events and fundraising promotions planned for the next year as well, so hopefully folks will take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy all sorts of memorable good times, while helping Keith’s family with a really difficult situation that is both out of their control and much more than they can handle on their own,” Reed concludes.
We talked to Keith late last week.
1. Keith, what’s the medical snapshot of your health and what’s the sense of urgency right now?
Both of my kidneys are failing. I could go on dialysis any day. I’ve been struggling with MPGN (type 2) for about five years now, trying a couple of treatments, but to no avail. In fact, the function of my kidneys has degenerated at a pace twice as fast as was originally expected.
2. Where is the fundraising most needed?
I’ve been able to get by with my medical costs until now, including testing, biopsies, etc... Now that I will need to be on dialysis, get a kidney transplant, and be on immune-supressant drugs for the rest of my life, my medical bills enter an area that is not affordable.
3. What are you able to do and not able to do on a daily basis? What’s the most difficult thing about what you’re going through? The easiest?
I’m very fatigued. I can still do most of the normal daily things, I’m just a lot more tired. I left my job, which I held for over 20 years, because it was extremely high impact. I could probably handle something a bit more easygoing.
I still play music twice a week at a friend’s house, but it takes a lot to get me on stage.
I definitely need recovery time now. The most difficult thing is not contributing financially to my household. I fill the function of a stay-at-home dad. I feel very happy and fulfilled in this role, and that’s priceless, but I’m always hoping I can relieve some of the stress from day-to-day living expenses.
4. Long-term illness/disability can be a real grind, demoralizing for patient and caregiver alike. What keeps you going? What gives you hope and solace?
My amazing friends, my amazing wife and my amazing one-year-old daughter.
5. Why Pee-wee’s Big Adventure? It does seem oddly appropriate for some reason.
This movie is a quirky comedy classic that can be enjoyed by any age. I love Pee-wee!
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure: Keith Kozel Benefit Screening
Sat. Sept. 27, 7 p.m., Lucas Theatre for the Arts
No admission, everyone asked to donate at door. Everyone who donates at least $10 will receive free Raffle Ticket. Pee-wee Herman look-alike contest with three winners for best costumes: adult male, adult female, and child under 14. Each winner will receive a prize.