Frankie Gage Potis benefit

Jazzbones and Doxology team up to help the Potis family fight leukemia in little Frankie’s honor

By Matt Driscoll on January 24, 2008

On Saturday, Jan. 26, Doxology will play Jazzbones in Tacoma. First and foremost, the show is a benefit for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Though Doxology has gained a reputation for being one of the brightest soul/groove/rock bands around, even prompting Pappi Swarner to swoon “Imagine the music of Maroon 5 and Train forced occasionally through Jurassic 5’s backbeat, grabbing a bit of Fred Hammond’s soul and then pumped out Jason Kay’s larynx, and you have a pretty good idea of the kind of sound Doxology can make,” Doxology won’t be my focus this week. One look at the picture running below and you’ll understand why.

That picture, which has been plastered on show posters all over Jazzbones for weeks, is of Frankie Gage Potis. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) when he was 6 months old. Little Frankie, after a long, courageous battle, succumbed to the disease in 2002.

That picture is crushing. While the recent birth of my daughter is probably guiding my emotions, it doesn’t matter. Little Frankie’s innocent and crystal clear eyes are haunting. Since the first time I saw Little Frankie’s face looking back at me on a poster at Jazzbones, I haven’t been able to get him out of my mind. I look at his picture and think of the hurt I feel from only a chance encounter with a stranger’s picture. Then I think about Frankie’s parents, Frank and Gail Potis, along with Frankie’s older brother Dylan, and I try to comprehend the pain of losing a young child to a merciless disease. So far, I haven’t been able to. My chest starts to feel like concrete and my heart grows heavy.

It would have been impossible for me to focus on Doxology this week. Frankie’s eyes and smile were burned into my consciousness. He, and the horrible disease that took him, were all I could think about.

Plenty of shows are benefits, and most of them even support worthy causes. Saturday’s show at Jazzbones with Doxology is as good as they come. The money raised will go to Frankie Fans, an appropriately named team of do-gooders (including Frankie’s family) who will participate in the 2008 Big Climb in Seattle on March 16. If you’re not familiar with the Big Climb, the idea is basic: A bunch of teams all strap on their tennis shoes and race up the state’s tallest skyscraper, the Columbia Tower, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society all the way. Last year the Big Climb raised $695,000. The fundraising goal for this year’s climb, the 22nd annual, is $740,000.

To make the event that much more important to Frankie Fans, this year’s Big Climb falls on what would have been Frankie’s seventh birthday, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has named Frankie this year’s official honoree.

Frank and Kelly Potis know just how important the work of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is. Not only do families face monstrous medical costs when a loved one is diagnosed with leukemia, but bills like rent, heat, and food don’t go away even when parents are spending time crib-side in the ICU and not at work. During the Potis family’s darkest hours, shortly after moving to the Northwest from New York, knowing no one, and hearing the news that their seemingly healthy baby boy had an incurable and ultimately fatal disease, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was there for the Potis family. Without the society’s help, it’s tough to say how the Potis clan would have survived. For this reason, and many others, Frankie’s family is deeply involved with raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“A lot of fundraisers go to research. We want a cure as much as anyone. But the money raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society goes straight back to the community where it’s needed,” says Kelly Potis.

“When your child is in the hospital, bills are coming in but the paychecks aren’t. The money we raise goes right back to the families that need it.”

Like anyone who’s faced the untimely death of a loved one, the Potis family, along with everything else, faced a tremendous feeling of helplessness following Frankie’s passing in 2002. It was Frankie’s older brother, Dylan, who first noticed a flyer for the Big Climb and persuaded the family to become involved.

“At first it was very difficult. I would think ‘I’m just a mail carrier. What can I do to fight cancer?” offers Potis.

“It’s so hard on a sibling. They get lost in it all. Dylan would say things like ‘I wish it was me who died. At least I got to go to school and ride a bike.’ It’s a very helpless feeling. It was nice to find a way to actually help. Now Dylan races up 69 flights of stairs in 10 minutes for his brother.

“(Frankie) was incredibly young, and he wasn’t sick when he was diagnosed. I think parents can relate to that shock. But on any given day, Frankie would pop up out his hospital bed and smile at you. If that’s not a life lesson, I don’t know what is,” continues Potis.

“We have our good days as a family and bad days. He was so brave. We owe it to him. We promised we would never forget him, and we won’t.”

Help fight Leukemia and Lymphoma on Saturday Jan. 26 at Jazzbones. Doxology will be on hand to make it a memorable night musically, and Little Frankie Gage Potis is sure to be on everyone’s mind.

Come out and support the cause. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

[Jazzbones, Saturday, Jan. 26, 8 p.m., $10-$12, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.396.9169]


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