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Monday, December 04, 2023

A collaboration with a cause: The Hachetbury partners with Azazus to fundraise for Ronald Mcdonald House Charities

A chance encounter between a local musician and a new business owner led to an unexpected way to support families with critically ill children

<p>Members of Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida at The Hatchetbury, May 13, 2021. (Courtesy to The Alligator)</p><p></p><p></p>

Members of Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida at The Hatchetbury, May 13, 2021. (Courtesy to The Alligator)

A blend of ax-throwing, live music and fundraising for children with severe illnesses will take place at The Hatchetbury this month.

Alachua County’s first ax-throwing venue teamed up with local musician Azazus to create a song titled “Best Damn Moment.” 

Azazus will perform the single live at The Hatchetbury’s fundraising event on June 16. All proceeds will go toward supporting the families at Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, a nonprofit charity organization that helps house the families of critically ill children at Shands Hospital. 

The music video for “Best Damn Moment,” which was filmed at The Hatchetbury, will be released the day before in honor of National Children’s Day.

Suzanne Gilbert, co-owner of The Hatchetbury, met Azazus at its grand opening and asked him to make a song that embodied the empowering atmosphere of her new business.

“I said to him, ‘I just want something that captures the vibe of The Hatchetbury, that guarantees smiles,’” Gilbert said. “We play great music, and it's just great fun.”

The fundraising event is $100 per admission ticket, which is equal to the cost of housing one family for one night at the Ronald McDonald House. The money earned from every stream and download of the song will also go towards helping the families.

“At the end of the day, our number one priority is to raise as much money as we possibly can for a genuinely great cause for families,” Gilbert said. “There's nothing more rewarding than making a difference like that.”

In a time of persistent worry and tension due to the pandemic, The Hatchetbury introduced Gainesville community members to a new stress-relieving activity.

After beginning construction in January 2020, The Hatchetbury adapted to the CDC’s guidelines by redesigning its venue to include 12-foot spacing and sanitization stations.

In addition to the tension caused by the pandemic, a survey by Northwestern National Life reported that approximately 40% of American workers feel their job alone is “very or extremely stressful” and 25% of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.

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Mckensi Houston, a 20-year-old classical studies and general theater senior at UF, has worked as an “ax-pert” at The Hatchetbury since it opened on August 29, 2020. She said The Hatchebury’s cathartic environment helped customers during the pandemic. 

“Being able to go somewhere and have a sense of normalcy for a little bit, it can be really good for the spirit,” Mckensi Houston said. “I’ve definitely seen a lot of return customers who gravitate towards that and recognize that it is helping them mentally.” 

While writing “Best Damn Moment,” Azazus took notice of this and made the song about having a good time at The Hatchetbury– zoning out from all the stress and adversities after a long day.

“This is a college city and, for the people that aren’t in college, their regular schedule is to go to work and get off work,” Azazus said. “We're trying to inspire people to dive into what's here locally as far as resources and entertainment.”

Once Azazus informed Gilbert that they could release “Best Damn Moment” as a single, she decided to use the song as a chance to lend a helping hand to the community.

Gilbert met Sherry Houston, the executive director at North Central Florida’s Ronald McDonald House, through a frequent ax-thrower at The Hatchetbury.

“The number one diagnosis of a family who comes to us is their child is waiting for a heart, and those families stay an average of six months, sometimes a year with us,” Sherry Houston said. “We knew we still had to make a difference because families needed us more than ever during this pandemic.”

Ronald McDonald House is dedicated to providing families with more than just a home away from home. Since January 2021, it has distributed nearly 900 “comfort bags” full of non-perishable snacks and toiletries to their families. 

The Hatchetbury, Azazus and Ronald McDonald House each make an impact in their own fields, but Sherry Houston said the rather unexpected three-way collaboration is a perfect blend of community involvement.

“To partner with this brand new organization in town, to have this celebrity create a song to promote the organization, and to have them raise money for our families, it makes a completely formed circle.” 

Contact Brenna Follow her on Twitter @BrennaMarieShe1.

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