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July 4, 2020

In effort packed with meaning, teen raises big money for Brenner and UNC children’s hospitals

SALISBURY — Archie Dees was a busy guy Saturday night.

For the first time outside church programs, the 17-year-old found himself on stage, playing acoustic and electric guitars with seasoned musicians.

He was giving newspaper interviews, posing for countless photographs, shaking hands and receiving hugs.

At one point, Archie also stood behind a microphone in front of a large crowd, waiting for a FaceTime telephone connection with Eric Montross, the former basketball star for the University of North Carolina.

Soon, Archie was telling Montross, who was bigger than life on the screen behind him, of money he had raised for UNC Children’s Hospital. Montross’ foundation and annual Father’s Day Basketball Camp strongly support the hospital.

“To see you doing something of this magnitude is really touching,” Montross told Archie. “It’s just incredibly meaningful. I deeply appreciate what you’re doing. This will be tremendous.”

Montross added he is looking forward to working with Archie to make sure the people who contributed to his effort know how their donations are helping the hospital.

“See you, pal,” Montross said before signing off.

The amount might astound you, but in about two months time this fall, Archie Dees raised more than $29,000, of which some $15,400 is earmarked for Brenner Children’s Hospital and $13,950 for UNC Children’s.

That fundraising effort culminated Saturday night with a Grateful Dead-inspired concert/celebration in the upstairs of City Tavern. Archie’s guitar instructor, Tripp Edwards, and family friend Brad Penley led the night’s music with help from Alan Wyrick, Jeff Hansen and Louis Bodak.

The night raised even more money for Archie’s effort, for which final totals are still being calculated.

On Saturday night, Archie told all the donors, friends and family members attending that he would be making their contributions in memory of Lillie Edwards, the late daughter of Tripp and Elizabeth Edwards. Lillie died at age 6 in 2013.

Not long after his birth, Archie Dees developed blood clots in his brain, which led to a stroke.

It may sound strange, but the stroke when he was about 2 weeks old probably saved Archie’s life. It caused bleeding in his brain, prompting him to have seizures, which alerted his doctors to the clotting problem.

So for the first nine months of his life, Archie was on blood thinners, and his parents drove him to Brenner Children’s Hospital three times a week for blood tests. It all led to the joyful day when an MRI showed complete healing in his brain.

Today, Archie Dees is a lanky senior at Salisbury High School.

He knows, of course, the ordeal he went through as an infant, and when his parents, Meg and Jay Dees, extended to him a simple challenge — do something good for the community before he left for college — Archie thought of Brenner first.

“My idea was to give back to Brenner for what they did for me,” Dees said.

But things mushroomed from there — and not in the Go-Fund-Me-page type of fundraising that has become common these days.

Jay Dees said he and Meg told Archie to choose an organization in which he fully believed, set a fundraising goal, personalize his connection to it and organize the effort.

But most important, his parents wanted Archie to talk personally with everyone from whom he was asking support — through face-to-face meetings, FaceTime or regular telephone calls.

Archie sent out information in advance of his personal contacts.

“Our hope was that he connect with a cause, work hard to achieve a goal, connect others to it, and make some positive impact,” Jay said. “And for more than two months, he did just that. We could not be more proud of how hard he worked. And believe me, he did it himself.”

Archie set an original goal of raising $12,500.

He said UNC Children’s Hospital and Montross came into the picture because of the many years his dad, sister Maggie and himself attended the Eric Montross Father’s Day Basketball Camp every summer in Chapel Hill.

The family has high regard for Montross, “and we wanted to support him through that foundation,” Archie said.

Archie’s aunt, artist Earle Kluttz Thompson, also knows Eric and Laura Montross through having worked for the couple, and that also led to her painting murals at UNC Children’s Hospital.

Montross, whose Father’s Day camp alone has raised $1.8 million to support UNC Children’s, knew nothing about Archie’s efforts to raise money for the hospital until the very public telephone call Saturday night.

“Now I realize you and my wife have been in cahoots on this,'” Montross told Archie.

The original goal of $12,500 was passed within three weeks. Archie credited his big family — members of which are everywhere, he said — and myriad sponsors with whom he talked personally.

Jay Dees said his son’s ability to more than double his original goal “was simply a reflection of how he was able to connect others to his story and his commitment to Brenner’s and UNC Children’s through a personalized approach.”

Saturday’s fundraiser at City Tavern sold 60 tickets at $25 each, not to mention other contributions made during the evening. Todd Littleton, owner of City Tavern, donated the evening’s food.

Tripp Edwards said all the songs performed Saturday night were “CBD” — songs that had been covered by the Grateful Dead and/or the late Jerry Garcia.

They touched on music from the early 1900s into the 1970s that had been original to performers such as the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Charles Johnson, Traffic, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Merle Haggard, to mention some.

Archie joined Edwards and Penley for about a half dozen songs, reflecting skills he has learned over four years with Edwards as his teacher.

Jay Dees said Archie’s success and personal growth with his project went way beyond what he and Meg thought would be possible.

“It was fun as a parent to watch,'” he said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.

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