SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Kory & The Fireflies has been a staple of the local music scene for decades, turning out familiar favorites like Pop Fly and Sometimes.
Nine years ago, lead singer Kory Van Sickle came up with his biggest hit to date — but this was no song — it was an idea that became a fundraiser for the Sanford Health Foundation.
Big Stars & Pink Guitars is a night of music and philanthropy.
“We are auctioning off pink Firefly guitars that are signed by artists that come through the Denny Sanford Premier Center,” Sanford Health Foundation Executive Director Erin Sanderson said. “And these guitars don’t just go for $200 or $300, these guitars have been anywhere from $5,000 to $45,000,” Sanderson added.
Erin Sanderson is Executive Director of the Sanford Health Foundation and says the event has raised more than $2.5 million since 2018.
“Last year alone we raised just under a million dollars for a one night event. Biggest event we have here at Sanford Health Foundation. We typically don’t see numbers of that size for a one night event,” Sanderson said.
An event that was the brainchild of Kory & The Fireflies lead singer Kory Van Sickle.
“I’ve been doing fundraising a lot of years, I had no idea how it was going to go,” Sanderson said.
“In 2014, I had the idea of creating a ribbon-shaped guitar and the first one we did was hot pink. I had shown the idea to Miles Beacom at a lunch we were having, Miles liked the idea, we built the first batch of guitars right around 2014,” Kory & The Fireflies lead singer Kory Van Sickle said.
The very first pink guitar ended up in the hands of country music star Jason Aldean, who signed one and wanted one for himself.
“I left the concert, went home, got another guitar, tuned it up, bring it back, gifted it to him. A couple weeks later, I flew out to Michigan to see him play the guitar in front of a sold-out crowd there, and then that guitar went online and sold for over $15,000 and ultimately a gentleman from Lake Madison purchased that guitar,” Van Sickle said.
Now, upwards of 20 pink guitars are up for auction each spring at Big Stars & Pink Guitars.
“People have gotten really competitive with getting their guitars and we love competitiveness when it comes to bidding on those knowing that it’s going to benefit local women,” Sanderson said.
“A hundred percent goes to patient care and research through Edith Sanford Breast Center,” Van Sickle said.
As for the inspiration behind the pink Firefly guitar…
“I mean, I love my mom, you know (laugh),” Van Sickle said.
And there’s plenty of admiration to go around.
“Moms, sisters, daughters, grandmas, I mean all these powerful women in our lives. I believe in making an effort to have them around as long as we can and breast cancer, unfortunately, seems to affect a large percentage of them, it’s a ruthless disease,” Van Sickle said.
Sanderson says more than 370 women were diagnosed with a form of breast cancer at the Edith Sanford Breast Center last year alone.
“81% of those women were diagnosed at stage-0 or stage-1, the lowest stage we would like them to be in, and that’s because of our technology,” Sanderson said.
525 guitars signed by more than 100 artists have paid for some of that technology.
“Every act is presented five pink Firefly guitars and they’re offered one as a gift, and a majority of them take one home which is really neat because that speaks to how unique the item is,” Van Sickle said. “Paul McCartney even walked away with one, so that’s pretty cool,” Van Sickle added.
A recent victory for Kory was seeing members of U2 sign a guitar, but the overall list is impressive.
“We’ve had Elton John and Ed Sheeran and Fleetwood Mac, and a whole host of other giant artists that I’ve loved through the years,” Van Sickle said.
Van Sickle says he’s always wanted to give and is grateful to have his name associated with Big Stars & Pink Guitars.
“When I talk to young people I tell them that you don’t have to be a billionaire or a millionaire to figure out ways to give and I love being creative and I love being creative through philanthropy,” Van Sickle said.
“He really cares about the event itself, he wants it to be fun and new and innovative and successful but he also cares about where the dollars go, and that’s a really special combination for us to have in an ambassador,” Sanderson said.
And when it comes to the future of Big Stars & Pink Guitars…
“I think the sky’s the limit,” Van Sickle said.
Van Sickle has a list of artists he’d like to see sign a guitar, including Taylor Swift, Adele, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and Willie Nelson.
The sixth annual Big Stars & Pink Guitars is April 27th at The District in Sioux Falls.