July 19, 2017 Lauren Finley

Community Outpouring for Homeless Cancer Patient

It was a Thursday afternoon when we learned of a heart-tugging story that needed a quick turnaround:

A terminally ill man living at the homeless shelter was going to have a dream come true the following Monday. And we needed to get the word out to make sure media would be there.

Our client, Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (CAPSLO) knew about Tony Devodier, who had been staying at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter for several months. Tony, diagnosed with terminal cancer, had been staying in the shelter as part of CAPSLO’s Recuperative Care Program, which provides shelter for homeless individuals who have health issues.

While he was staying at the shelter, Devodier’s oncologist, Thomas Spillane, nominated him to the Dream Makers, a group of local volunteers that helps grant wishes for adults with terminal illness.

Tony’s wish: He wanted to play music for a live audience.

Finding a band was easy: Spillane is not only a physician, he’s also a musician, who performs classic rock covers with his band Where’s Sweeny? So a gig was arranged at SLO Brew, a popular night spot in San Luis Obispo.

With that information, we quickly gathered facts, speaking to folks at CAPSLO and interviewing Tony, who plays guitar. Tony told us he had been practicing with the band and by himself at the shelter.

“I want to do good,” Devodier said. “I want to give people something they like.”

Knowing media outlets are short staffed on the weekends and needed to plan ahead for Monday, we got a release out by early Friday afternoon, offering a photo of Tony, press contacts and more.

The event was a huge success: Prior to Tony’s limousine ride to the venue, local clothing store Jules D. gifted him an outfit of a shirt, jacket, pants and shoes. Meanwhile, Godin president Janet Godin gave him a new Godin guitar.

Setting the stage for a perfect evening, SLO Brew was packed—no easy feat for a Monday night during the summer. And Tony was greeted with a video message from members of the Steve Miller Band. During the concert, $1,100 in donations were raised for Tony—which he amazingly pledged to donate to the shelter.

Meanwhile, BCA’s efforts to garner publicity for the show paid off, with coverage from Up and Adam in the Morning on 104.5 FM, KSBY and the Tribune.

Tony’s tale is heart wrenching. But we were honored to help him stage one life-affirming event.