By Lauren Isenman

Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead. What do all of these music icons have in common? They all performed at Woodstock. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. For four days in 1969, over 400,000 people descended on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York to see the musicians mentioned above and many others.  We are all aware of Woodstock, but have you ever heard of SvenStock? SvenStock is Illinois’ very own Woodstock, but in addition to music, it raises funds for charities, including Imerman Angels. 

SvenStock is a music festival put on every year at the home of two members of Team Imerman Angels, Stephen “Sven” Johnson and his wife, Leslie Hammersmith. Sven and Leslie live on a five-acre farm in Sadorus, Illinois, complete with chickens and donkeys. On Saturday, August 3, they were joined by friends who camped out on the farm for the Fifth Annual SvenStock Music Festival.

SvenStock 2019 featured 17 musical acts, including a performance from Sven himself. The acts consisted of local Champaign-Urbana musicians. The first half of the program had singer-songwriter variations and the second half had electronic music, heavy punk, and death metal. Every year, Svenstock raises money for a charity with Imerman Angels being the beneficiary in 2015, 2017, and 2019. In 2016, the festival raised money for RACES, a rape crisis center in East-Central Illinois that provides free, confidential services to anyone who has been impacted by sexual assault, abuse, or harrassment. In 2018, SvenStock raised money for Girls Rock!, a camp in Champaign that seeks to increase young women’s self esteem by bringing them together to create music.  

At SvenStock, a person’s entry ticket to the event is a donation to the charity. This year they raised nearly $1,000 for Imerman Angels. 

Sven and Leslie have been involved with Imerman Angels for a long time. Years ago, at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Expo, Sven met Jonny Imerman at the booth for Team Imerman Angels. After meeting Jonny and learning about Imerman Angels’ mission, to provide personalized connections that enable one-on-one support among cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers, Sven was motivated to get involved. His wife Leslie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and has been cancer free for 12 years. Sven and Leslie know firsthand how important it is to have people to lean on while battling cancer, and that is why they believe Imerman Angels is vital.  

Sven joined Team Imerman Angels as an athlete in 2011. After attending the pasta dinner with Sven for the 2016 marathon, Leslie was inspired to join the team herself. In 2017, Leslie and Leslie’s cousin, Laura, joined Team Imerman Angels with Sven. 

 When asked what advice he would give to anyone who wants to do their own fundraising event, Sven says, “Start out with a simple concept. Focus on what you, yourself, find really fun and go with it. It could be as simple as having a campfire and asking your friends to donate to Imerman Angels each time they make a s’more. You do not have to plan an elaborate event.” 

The money Sven and Leslie have raised for charities from creating SvenStock is inspirational. Sven and Leslie think of the event as a celebration for what each charity does.  Sven knew that raising money for Imerman Angels would mean less people would have to face cancer alone. SvenStock is just one example of how a fundraising event can create an influential impact on an outstanding organization, such as Imerman Angels, that is doing crucial work to make the world a better place. Sven, Leslie and Laura are making a comeback for the 2019 Chicago Marathon! Consider donating to their page here: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/sven2019?fbclid=IwAR3NQWrbuOrHjk7QJCHaLubi6RHeqpwMerLpSWaAqeiUThBMX7N7ZN84ciM