Every year on April 5th, Edward Tobler wakes up at 6:05 a.m. to watch the sun rise, thankful for the many things he has to live for.
It was on that day and time in 2008 when Tobler shot himself in the chest with a .308 rifle, attempting to commit suicide for the 41st, and last, time. This year, Tobler plans to observe that day in a different way - with a Live for Life, Don’t Hasten Death Music Festival on April 4th at the Hillsville VFW.
“Every year I wake up at that same time and watch the sun come up, thankful to be alive for another day. This year is going on six years and I wanted to do something different. April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month and I always thought those two are linked someway,” Tobler said. “I’m not saying everyone suicidal has been abused as a child, but there is a link for people abused as children that could be suicidal down the road. In my case I was suicidal at age five and stayed that way until age 24.”
Tobler, of Hillsville, said the benefit music festival will begin at 2 p.m. on April 4th and all profits will be split evenly between Rooftop of Virginia, to support child abuse prevention, and CrisisLink, a national suicide hotline. Several Christian alternative rock bands will play to start the show, including the praise and worship team from the Out of the Box Worship Center in Hillsville, as well as All Came As One, another local church band. Later in the day, there will be rock ‘n’ roll bands and heavy metal bands performing. Among those will include Andrew Marshall and the Silver City Band, which Tobler described as a classic rock band, and C.O.D., a heavy metal band from Grayson County.
“I think this will be the first rock concert Hillsville has had. Whenever they have a concert at the VFW, it’s gospel or bluegrass, so I’m hoping bringing some actual rock ‘n’ roll will get some of the kids out,” Tobler said. “We’re trying to have a variety of music from the Christian Alternative bands to the rock and heavy metal bands.”
Live music will go on until about 11:30 p.m., Tobler said, adding that the music will get heavier as the night continues. He said advance tickets will be $15, while the price of admission will be $20 at the door. Tobler said he’s seeking donations to be able to pay for the venue, which will cost “at least $400.” Anybody who donates $20 or more will be given to two tickets to the show. Tobler just wants to make the event happen to help others who’ve been through the same things as him.
“I’ve gotten it turned around and I’ve decided I want to help people. I wanted to have this music festival so I could bring awareness to people and to let people know that child abuse isn’t just physical or sexual, it is emotional and psychological, “ Tobler said. “If a parent isn’t there, that could be considered abuse. And abuse has a negative impact on a child’s growth as they get older. It’s something I think can be prevented.”
During the music festival, Tobler will also air a video documentary between bands presenting local people’s stories about child abuse and suicide. Tobler is seeking help from people willing to be filmed for the documentary. The video will include Tobler’s testimony of his suicide attempt on April 5th, 2008.
“I remember everything from the smell of the gunpowder rising from my chest, to blacking out from loss of blood pressure, to the inability to breath, to having the stroke and heart attack and a colostomy bag for nine months. It was really hard to get adjusted to life after that,” Tobler said. “It definitely changed my abilities and outlook on life in general. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I figure if I could save one life with a rock concert and testimony, it would be worth it.”
Tobler said he has put up most of the money for the event so far, but he could definitely use some help from any local businesses or churches wishing to donate to the cause. He’s also hoping the event will be popular enough to raise money for child abuse awareness and suicide prevention.
“I’m hoping people will show up because it is really a good cause,” he said. “A $1,000 donation would cover the cost of training one volunteer to take 500 suicide calls in a year.”
Tobler is also spearheading a poetry contest he hopes to hold in mid-March. He is still looking for a location for the poetry reading and contest, but he said several local businesses have given donations of prizes. Poems need to be submitted to him in early February “as soon as possible.” He invites contestants to read their poetry related to child abuse or suicide prevention at the event. Winners will get a free ticket to the April music festival and will be able to read their poems at the festival. Other prizes so far include two $25 gift certificates to Applebee’s and a one month free membership to the Carroll Wellness Center.
Anyone wishing to enter the poetry contest or to buy advance tickets to the April 4th music festival can do so by calling Tobler at 733-3657. Advance tickets to the music festival are planned to be available by Feb. 13, he said, and will probably be available at the Hillsville VFW.