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'Celebrate with us': Zac Brown Band concert at GABP raising money for member's ALS foundation

John Driskell Hopkins
Posted at 4:36 PM, May 30, 2023

CINCINNATI — When John Driskell Hopkins found out a year and a half ago that he had ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease), he admitted there were several weeks where, "I was a total mess."

"I started manifesting it right away," he says. "I thought, 'It's happening right now'. You know, I'm sort of psyching myself into it."

It's understandable. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the progressive loss of motor neurons that control voluntary muscles.

For a guitarist in the Zac Brown Band, arguably one of the biggest bands in the world, losing control of your muscles would be catastrophic — not to mention that there is no known cure for the disease.

Once the shock wore off and Hopkins realized, as he puts it, that he wasn't going to "drop dead tomorrow," he started living again.

"I have to be present for my friends, for my family and ... my fans and Zac Brown Band fans and the people cheering me on," Hopkins said.

A year and a half later, he now has a foundation Hop on a Cure which raises money for ALS research, and Hopkins is still playing with the band.

On June 2 at Great American Ballpark, those two things will be intertwined.

Hopkins will take his place on stage with the Zac Brown Band to perform for a sold-out 45,000 fans and some proceeds from the concert will benefit his foundation.

"We have such a platform," Hopkins said. "We have almost a responsibility to use our voice through Zac Brown Band and through my own music. And through the massive music community ... to help generate awareness and funds for something that is grossly underfunded."

The Reds believe that with an expected sell-out crowd, they will be handing Hopkins a $100,000 check for Hop on a Cure.

And there are more coincidences. The concert comes after a Reds game. Famed baseball player, Lou Gehrig, lost his life to ALS. It's been commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease for decades. Gehrig learned of his diagnosis on June 2, the same date as the concert.

Hopkins admits that he can't play some chords as quickly as he used to.

"I've had to adjust some of my parts that required the double-time strumming," Hopkins said. "But that's okay, because, I'm able to do the regular time strumming in a different way that blends ... And I'm able to stand throughout the show. So until those things change, I'm rockin'."

His hope is that he can use that stage to reach all those people and explain what ALS is and why it's so critical to find the keys to unlocking the disease.

"And then," said Hopkins, "you're gonna see a really cool band that I happened to be a member of play some really cool music. Celebrate with us. Because life is good today."

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