“Every generation of rock musician will understand that we wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of teenagers buying the records. Just put yourself back on the line. It’s very easy — just be there when they ask for you.” said Roger Daltrey of The Who in a recent interview. Over the last twenty years, The Who have participated in a number of benefits to support of England’s Teenage Cancer Trust, which has established 19 cancer units for teenagers across the U.K.
At a press conference Friday with former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant at his side, Daltrey announced the launch of his newly formed foundation, the Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program, which is focused on expanding the options and resources available to sick teenagers in an environment where people are classified merely as adults or children. This program separates teen patients from children, allowing the care to focus on their specific needs as an age group.
Daltrey said that up until now, support and care for young people with cancer, has been a “teenage wasteland” and this new program will provide a much needed environment of nurturing and comfort that was sorely lacking for many years. Plans for the new teen cancer center at UCLA were unveiled at Friday’s press conference. Daltrey and Plant signed a Les Paul guitar that will be ‘part of the furnishings’ at the center, which is colorful and vibrant with a rock & roll theme. The center will be funded by The Who’s charity Who Cares.
The launch, followed on November 5 by a fund-raising event, was also attended by Dave Grohl. Daltrey announced that a portion of ticket sales from his solo tours would go to fund the teen cancer centers.
A young rock drummer Sarah Sterner, who had suffered from cancer, and is one of the success stories of the Teenage Trust, beamed as she spoke about the teen cancer program. “If we can create that home away from home with the Teenage Trust, maybe it will take away some of the mental shock of being sick and having cancer.” Sterner, an Atlanta high school student diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 15, has been declared cancer-free for the last 18 months. Daltrey stood with his arm around her at the press conference, “Look at her now, 17 years old,” he said smiling, “a complete success story.”
Co-founder and Who guitarist Pete Townshend, who was unable to attend the press conference, said it is his hope that this catches on like the Teenage Trust did in the UK, “because it does save lives”. Townshend could not make it due to visa problems. “He’s here in spirit. We are a team,” Daltrey said later.
Daltrey has supported many charities both as a solo artist and jointly with other members of The Who since 1976. Daltrey said of Plant, “He’s been supportive of this for years. He’s done shows at the Albert Hall. It means a lot. He’s a very well-respected guy, and there will be some fan out there who’s in another band, who will say, ‘Robert Plant’s doing this? We will do it.’ I’m hoping.”
Hope we can all – as musicians – keep this kind of spirit going!