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    Dan Ashley of ABC7 News Pays It Back with Rock the CASA

    It is sometimes hard to find constants in the fast-paced Bay Area, given the high turnover of jobs, living arrangements, small businesses, and more. Perhaps that is one reason it can be comforting to turn on the news—yes, even with the disheartening headlines—and see favorite anchors like Dan Ashley of ABC7. Even when the news is depressing, Ashley makes a connection with viewers that, like Walter Cronkite for previous generations, offers some sense of stability and reassurance. As for Conkite, Lester Holt, and other talented journalists, their ease belies great skill and dedication to their work and communities.

    Ashley takes this a step further with his remarkable amount of volunteer work for nonprofits. He has donated his time to the AIDS Walk SF, for example, for nearly the past quarter of a century! One of his great passions is helping kids. We have to wonder that this inspiration came, at least in part, from the fact that he worked his way through high school and college mowing lawns, making ice cream cream (at Swensen’s Ice Cream Factory), and working as an ice-skating instructor. The ice cream gig introduced him to a mentor who recognized Ashley’s work ethic and charisma. Ashley has never forgotten the sense of confidence this instilled, and hopes to nurture it in others.

    A notable example of such efforts is Rock the CASA, an annual evening of music for children in need. This year’s event, to take place on March 7 at the Lesher Center for Performing Arts in Walnut Creek, will benefit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the Friends of Camp Concord, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Boys & Girls Club. Ashley and his band will perform, along with special guest Rick Springfield. We recently caught up with Ashley, who shared more about the event and his life and work.

    San Francisco Bay Times: This year will mark the 6th annual Rock the CASA. What are some of your favorite memories from past years?

    Dan Ashley: It is hard to believe that this will be our 6th year of staging Rock the CASA. There have been so many memorable moments. Our first year featured the late Eddie Money who was a friend of mine and he was the perfect person to headline our inaugural event. I remember being completely stressed out that year because we were creating a new and very complicated evening from scratch. The next year, REO Speedwagon headlined the show and I was so impressed by how kind and engaging every member of the band was. They were so into the event and were very generous, even donating all of their t-shirt sales from that evening to RTC. It was about $2500 and they were so nice to be that supportive. Each year, there have been some very special and memorable moments and I have no doubt that this year’s concert with Rick Springfield will produce many more.

    San Francisco Bay Times: How did you first learn about CASA of Contra Costa County? Please share a few words about the importance of this organization and the other nonprofits that the concert benefits. 

    Dan Ashley: I first become aware of the work that CASA does three decades ago when I was working in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s called Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) in the Palmetto State and does amazing work to help children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect. I have served on the CASA board in Contra Costa County for many years and believe deeply in the work it does. I feel the same about the other beneficiaries of Rock the CASA. I also serve on the board of Friends of Camp Concord, which sends underserved kids to summer camp at Lake Tahoe every year. In the 22-years that I’ve hosted a golf tournament to raise money for FOCC we have sent 10,000 children to camp, all expenses paid, as of this past summer. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a big impact on young people by offering mentor relationships with caring adults. And, finally, the Boys and Girls Club, which offers meaningful after school programs that educate and inspire.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Rick Springfield, not unlike yourself, is such a Renaissance man, given that he’s a writer, actor, singer, and more. What is your favorite song of his, and what aspect of his career resonates with you the most?

    Dan Ashley: Rick really has had a remarkable and unusual career. He has so many great songs. Like everyone, I really like “Jessie’s Girl” that is often considered the perfect pop song because of its structure, lyric, and hook. “I’ve Done Everything for You” and “Love Somebody” are two other terrific songs in my mind.

    San Francisco Bay Times: You’ve been the evening anchor at ABC7 News for the past 25 years and have seen and covered so much around the Bay Area and the world. But it’s also given you a platform to be involved in our community in so many meaningful ways, hasn’t it?

    Dan Ashley: It really has and I am so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had over the years to report important events to our viewers whether they happen here, around the country, or even around the world. As you know, a reporter’s life is a joy and a privilege, not only because of the unforgettable events we witness and document, but also because of the unique place we are able to occupy in the community. How fortunate to be able to use that amazing platform to help worthy organizations raise money and awareness to truly make a difference in the lives of others. I am so grateful to be able to support a wide range of charitable organizations and, on top of that, create one as well to benefit young people who need our help.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Your namesake band is also thriving now, with new single releases. Please tell us a bit about those songs.

    Dan Ashley: You are kind to ask. While my first love and greatest passion in life has always been journalism and my role as evening anchor at ABC7, music has been a joyful pursuit when I’m not working. More than that, it is also another way for me to connect with our viewers and for them to connect with me. I hear it all the time. That’s how I approach music—as a way to connect with people as a storyteller much like I am on television. The single “What Really Matters” is a direct reflection of what I’ve seen as a reporter for the past 35-years—both the good and the bad. The Christmas song I released this season, “My Favorite Time of Year,” was a joy to record. It was written and released by an English band about a dozen years ago. I found it quite by accident and the British songwriter who composed it was all too happy to have me cover it. The newest song that I just released for Valentine’s Day is called “Lucky Stars” and it is a very personal song that literally came to me in the middle of the night as I awoke with a sense of deep gratitude for the special woman in my life.

    San Francisco Bay Times: For the past few years, you and your band have been a favorite addition to our San Francisco Bay Times Pride Parade contingent. Are you working with the same musicians?

    Dan Ashley: I have been so proud, pun intended, to have been able to be part of the San Francisco Bay Times contingent in the Pride Parade. It’s such an important event and such a beautiful celebration and we are glad to be a part of it. My band is truly amazing. They are all professional musicians who have toured and performed with some of the biggest acts in the world including Mariah Carey, Santana, Pablo Cruise, Isaac Hayes, and more.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Can you give us a preview of what you might be performing at this year’s Rock the CASA? And will there be any surprises for audience goers this year? Over the years, for example, Rick Springfield has performed with members of his late 60s/early 70s band Zoot. You don’t have to spill the beans on any big surprises, but maybe if there will be any, you could give us a hint?! 

    Dan Ashley: We have a great performance planned to get things started before Rick takes the stage with some huge classic hits, several of my songs, and a special tribute to someone who has a unique place in Rock the CASA history that I think people will really appreciate.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Rock the CASA is all about the kids—those who will benefit from the concert. Do you get to meet some of the children who have been helped by the fundraiser and, if so, what is that experience like for you?  

    Dan Ashley: Over the years, I have met several of the children that the Rock the CASA beneficiary organizations have helped and it is always so heartwarming and, more than that, a touchstone and a reminder that the help for these deserving young people is badly needed and is making a real difference.

    San Francisco Bay Times: It is hard to think of Rock the CASA without thinking of Walnut Creek. Your event brings such joy and energy to this East Bay city, which is getting to be better known for its great restaurants and entertainment venues. Was it always your first choice as a location for the benefit concert?  

    Dan Ashley: Walnut Creek is, admittedly, near and dear to my heart. It’s where I live and I knew from the start that I wanted to host Rock the CASA there. I briefly considered staging the event in the city, but it ultimately made the most sense to stage it in The Creek! It’s been a perfect match for the event and the Lesher Center for Performing Arts is a fabulous venue that suits us perfectly.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Your schedule is always incredibly busy. What other projects are you working on now? Do you have any other concerts planned? And will you be at AIDS Walk SF again later this year?

    Dan Ashley: I do tend to burn the candle at both ends a bit, but that’s a good thing because there is so much to do and so much to accomplish. I absolutely love my work and am proud to represent ABC7 as an anchor and as a member of the community. I believe this year will be my 25th as emcee of AIDS Walk and I wouldn’t miss that magnificent event for the world. Even though we have made, thankfully, remarkable progress with HIV/AIDS, there is still a lot of work to do to rid the world of this terrible disease once and for all—so I’ll be there for as long as they’ll have me! Other projects include expanding my pod/webcast called “What Really Matters” with some very famous guests (Sammy Hagar, Brian Boitano, Branford Marsalis, to name a few), and to continue to find interesting and important stories to report with my own boots on the ground, which is something that I just love to do.

    Published on February 27, 2020


    Dan Ashley’s Rock The CASA: Six Years of Helping Bay Area Children in Need

    One of the most magical and memorable events of late winter is Dan Ashley’s Rock The CASA, an evening of music benefiting children in need. This year’s fundraiser, which will be held on March 7 at the Lesher Center for Performing Arts in Walnut Creek, will feature Rick Springfield! Yes, that Rick Springfield who was everything from a Tiger Beat pinup to the crooner of 1980s teen love anthems to an actor starring with the likes of Meryl Streep to the author of a New York Times best-selling memoir.

    Springfield is also an LGBTQ ally whom members of our San Francisco Bay Times team enjoyed at a San Diego LGBT Pride concert just a few years ago. We don’t know what his workout regime is like, but it must be impressive, as he still exudes major coolness and appeal.

    You can see for yourself, as Lesher’s intimate Hofmann Theatre has just 785 seats, and therefore allows for a more up close and personal experience for all attendees. Consider that the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco has 2203 seats. The Castro Theatre has 1400 seats. Those are both beautiful venues that offer good views of the stage, so just imagine how amazingly intense it is to see world class performers at the Lesher, which is just an easy and short (about 9 minutes, no hills) walk from the Walnut Creek BART station.


    Now in its sixth year, Rock The CASA combines Ashley’s passions in music, philanthropy, community and helping children. We can vouch for Ashley’s love of family and music, as he and his talented band played in our 2018 and 2019 San Francisco Bay Times-“Betty’s List” Pride Parade contingents. At least one of his sons was there too, clearly proud of his dad and helping out in any way possible.

    The inaugural Rock the CASA concert was held in June 2015 and was billed as “an evening of music to support children in need.” That night, before a capacity crowd, legendary rocker Eddie Money took the stage. The night was an overwhelming success and set the groundwork for the next concert in March of 2016. That evening, multi-platinum band REO Speedwagon performed for a sold-out concert experience not typically seen in Walnut Creek. Together, those first two events raised over $150,000 for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Contra Costa County and Friends of Camp Concord (FOCC).


    Rock The CASA is a California nonprofit public charity founded by Ashley for the purpose of benefiting charitable organizations that serve children in need.


    This year’s beneficiaries are the following:

    CASA of Contra Costa County

    CASA’s program recruits, trains and supports volunteers who advocate for the best interest of abused, neglected, and abandoned youth in the foster care system. Each year, nearly 1,000 youth, from the ages 0–21, come into the foster care system and are under the court’s care because they are unable to live safely at home. On average, CASA serves 150 of the toughest cases or 15% of these youth at risk.

    Since 1982, CASA volunteers have been the voice in court and represented the best interests of thousands of abused, neglected, and abandoned youth. Most importantly, CASA volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the youth is placed in a safe, permanent home.

    Friends of Camp Concord

    FOCC was established in 1983 and is dedicated to raising funds to give underprivileged youth one of the most meaningful camp experiences available and does so in one of the most beautiful settings in the world: Lake Tahoe. Through FOCC, kids get to spend a week in the wilderness, participate in activities that emphasize safety, health, education, and character development.

    Some of the kids have never left their urban and suburban environments. Camp Concord opens a new world to them—swimming in the lake, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and boating. The activities are specially designed to provide challenges, promote teamwork and social skills, and build self-esteem. One of the best things about Camp Concord is that no one—not even the counselors—know which kids are on FOCC scholarship. They are simply “campers” for the week. FOCC believes every child in our community, regardless of financial ability, should have the opportunity to spend a week at a camp like this.

    Boys & Girls Club of Contra Costa County

    Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s research shows that young people who attend a Club regularly tend to do better than their peers nationally. For instance:

    • 68% of Club 12th graders volunteer at least once per month, while 39% of 12th graders nationally do so.
    • 27% of Club girls in middle school are physically active each day, compared with 23% of middle-school girls nationally. 42% of Club boys in middle school exercise daily, while 37% of middle-school boys nationally do so.
    • 73% of low-income Club members ages 12 to 17 who attend the Club regularly report receiving mostly As and Bs, compared to 69% of their peers nationally.
    • 12th-grade Club members are more than twice as likely to express an interest in a STEM career as 12th graders nationally (56% of 12th-grade Club members vs. 25% of 12th graders nationally).

    Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area

    For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes and monitors meaningful matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country. Big Brothers Big Sisters develops positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

    As Ashley says, “A lot of people do well; the truly fortunate do good.” We all have a chance to give back to the community by helping some of the most vulnerable among us, and while also enjoying a great evening of music. For more information about Dan Ashley’s Rock The CASA and to purchase tickets:

    Published on February 27, 2020