Voices of Hope performs national anthem at Patriots game, shares mission to combat cancer!
FOXBORO — It might have been a bad night for the New England Patriots, but another Boston-area team took the field at Gillette Stadium and showed off their skills before the game even started.
Voices of Hope, an Andover-based nonprofit musical theater group that raises money for cancer research, sang the national anthem at the Monday night football game to tens of thousands of people.
Their performance was part of the National Football League and American Cancer Society’s “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” initiative, in which they seek “to fight cancer and save lives,” according to the Patriots’ website.
Their performance comes after Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family Foundation just made a $50 million donation to Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s the biggest gift for community health and health equity the hospital has ever received.
Since they were founded in 2009, Voices of Hope has donated more than $900,000 to cancer research. In the first two years, funds raised went to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, but they now donate to the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at the Mass General Cancer Center.
Greg Chastain, founder and president of Voices of Hope, said they’re the second-largest private donor to the Termeer Center, having gifted more than $750,000.
Chastain said the organization last performed the anthem at a Patriots game 11 years ago, which happened to coincide with his 50th birthday. They’ve since sung at Fenway Park, TD Garden, in Chestnut Hill and Lowell for college hockey and in Worcester before Woo Sox games.
“It’s a great way to spread our message of what we do and who we are and also give back to our members, who give so much of their time, to do something cool,” Chastain said of the performances.
Alongside Voices of Hope, season ticket member cancer survivors, 100 Atrius Health cancer detection and prevention employees and others were honored on the field, according to the Patriots’ website. Crucial Catch Ambassador Kara Doolittle, who is fighting breast cancer, waved the Crucial Catch flag before the game.
Roy Earley, of Chelmsford, said he met his wife, Diane, doing musical theater in Waltham, and they both joined Voices of Hope in 2016, recognizing that it was “a worthy cause.” He and Diane both sang at the game Monday.
No matter the size of the audience, Earley said it’s important they share their mission and its impact.
“For me, it fulfills two needs,” Earley said of Voices of Hope. “One is my theatrical performing background, and the second is to be able to do something that actually helps people.”
With more than 150 members, Voices of Hope could only bring 20 singers, per an NFL mandate likely due to the pandemic, Chastain said. But despite the absence of their usual ensemble, Chastain said he promised to “represent them well.”
And that they did. Chastain, Earley, and the 18 others sang a four-part harmony, an arrangement they rehearsed last Wednesday and one they use for every rendition.
Maria Coughlan, of Billerica, joined her son, Rob, on the field Monday night and called the opportunity to sing with her second family “an honor.” As someone with several personal connections to cancer, Coughlan said the group is special to her and her family.
Despite all their performances at different sports arenas, Coughlan said Gillette simply doesn’t compare, and the audience got the cream of their crop.
“The first time I did it, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what it feels like to walk out on that field,” she said. “I know I’m going to have the same feeling… The feeling is just indescribable, it really is. It’s overwhelming, it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, it’s frightening. It’s a lot of things.”
Chastain said they were thrilled to be back on the gridiron and receive the support from the Kraft Foundation, who donate to their silent auctions and support their craft. They’ll also be back at TD Garden in January to sing the national anthem at a Celtics game.
“It’s really cool,” Chastain said. “To be there in front of all those people who, in your intro, get to hear who you are and what you did. And you never know who’s going to be in the audience and might be inspired by it.”