In June, 2008 Jason Statts, a ‘96 alumnus of SCAD’s graphic design program, was approached in Ardsley Park after finishing a show with with his band and was shot at point-blank through the neck. Because of this random act of violence, Statts suffered irreparable damage to his spinal column and is a quadriplegic. Shortly after the incident, a group of Statts’ friends formed “Friends of Statts” to hosts fundraisers and events, including the annual Statts Fest, to help provide healthcare assistance for Statts.

This year’s Statts Fest, on Saturday, September 23, marks the ninth year for the event and the second time it will be held at Grayson Stadium, according to Friends of Statts board member Emily Doherty. Doherty, a ’99 SCAD campus photo manager, said she worked as a photographer with Statts for SCAD’s communication department prior to the shooting, and that half of the Friends of Statts board also had ties to the SCAD community.

“We all have different talents to bring,” Doherty said. “And we all work collaboratively to create the best event possible.”

SCAD District

Jason Statts at Statts Fest 2015. Image courtesy of Back River Photography LLC.

Because this year’s event will be held at Grayson Stadium, it is advertised as Statts Fest goes Bananas. The Savannah Bananas will donate back from their sales during the event, which will take place from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the event for $20 for adults, with children 12 and under free of charge. No coolers or dogs are permitted, but guests can bring chairs and blankets.

“We have food trucks lined up, [and] they pull onto the field,” Doherty said. “We have a stage that’s sponsored by Hollingsworth Auto Service. They’re our presenting sponsor. We have live concerts all day. There will be beer and wine and a good time. We have a silent auction as well.”

Doherty said she and Friends of Statts work to raise more money every year to subsidize Statts’s medical bills. As for Statts himself, Doherty said he is doing well and still able to produce digital art with his hands.

“He constantly deals with pain management,” Doherty said. “But he’s an amazing spirit and always one-hundred percent positive. He didn’t make it [to the festival] last year, but this year he is planning on being there.”

For Doherty, who has been involved with Friends of Statts for the past five years, her favorite part about planning Statts Fest is seeing the Savannah community come together to support and give back to one of their own.

“It was just such an awful, random act of violence that it’s kind of our duty as citizens and as human beings to help each other out and to utilize our skills to benefit others.”

Connect Savannah dubbed Statts Fest as the best local fundraiser last year, and for Doherty and Friends of Statts that speaks volumes, considering the number of fundraisers and benefits hosted every year in Savannah. Doherty said she encourages those who have not attended Statts Fest before to come to Grayson Stadium Saturday for a feel-good event.

“It’s a fun time,” Doherty said. “You know every dollar goes to Jason. All of the food trucks donate back. Know that you’re actually spending money that goes directly back to help someone in our community. Come see what an amazing community Savannah is to pull together and support each other.”

Those interested in learning more about Friends of Statts can follow them on their social media and visit their website.