Ronnie James Dio's widow Wendy Dio has spoken to the "Red Light District Show" about her decision to start the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, which was established after his death as a privately funded 501(c)(3) charity organization dedicated to cancer prevention, research and education.
"When Ronnie passed away, a lot of peers, a lot of the bands that knew Ronnie well, all of our friends wanted to donate money to a cancer charity," she explained (hear audio below). "And Ronnie's doctor and I were, like, well, a lot of these charities, there's so much administration cost in the big charities. We wanted to make sure that the money went directly into research and education. And so we decided to talk to a bunch of Ronnie's friends, friends of his for over 30 years, and we ended up forming the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund with 14 board members. And that's how it started. And we have no administration costs — every penny goes into research or education. And we are all volunteers, and we meet once a month, and we do two events a year, which is the Ride For Ronnie, around his passing date, which is always in May. And then we do the Bowl For Ronnie, [the fourth edition of] which is coming up soon, in October — October 25th. So those are our two events and our big fundraisers, and that's how it all started."
The Dio Cancer Fund has raised in excess of $2 million to date through its various annual events and direct support from the vast community of Dio fans worldwide. It is their mission to help eradicate this disease through education and via Wendy's mantra: early detection saves lives.
"We try to tell people, especially with men — 'cause women are pretty good about getting checked. So we try to teach that early detection saves lives, and we do try to teach everyone that and say that in all of our interviews and all of our conferences and things that early detection saves lives," she said. "Please go and get tested. We're working right now with UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles], with Dr. Wong there, who's developing a saliva test. So instead of men going to get the normal test, which is why they don't like to go, if you know what I mean — they don't like the finger… This will be a very easy swab in the mouth and then sent away and it will come back and let us know whether you have either prostate cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer or stomach cancer, or none of the above. So it's a very good test. I think it will be out next year — hopefully — and that way, people can get tested and get it at a very early stage. And if it's caught early, then the chances of survival and far, far greater."
Ronnie James Dio lost his life to stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, in May 2010. The disease often does not cause symptoms until its later stages. Usually, by the time stomach cancer is diagnosed, the prognosis is poor.
"With pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer, a lot of times you don't know what's wrong with you until it's too late," Wendy said. "Ronnie had a lot of indigestion [a persistent or recurrent pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen], and actually went to a specialist about seven years before he passed with indigestion, and they just tested his heart and tested all these other things. But had I known what I know now, I would have insisted he had a colonostomy and an ultrasound. But at that time, we didn't know anything about cancer, so we didn't do it. And then he continued to take a lot of [over-the-counter antacid] Tums — he ate Tums all the time because of his stomach indigestion, which is what he thought he had."
The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund has given much of its money to the T.J. Martell Foundation, which is focused on leukemia, cancer and AIDS. The fund also has supported the Nashville Vanderbilt-Ingram Research Center for Cancer for men's cancers, such as stomach, colon and prostate cancer, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where Dio was treated. Its fundraising efforts have included gala dinners and a tribute album containing songs written by Ronnie James Dio that were recorded and donated by major rock and metal recording artists called "This Is Your Life". The "This Is Your Life" album resulted in a 2015 Grammy win for "Best Metal Performance" for TENACIOUS D (actor/musicians Jack Black and Kyle Gass) and their rendition of Ronnie James Dio's "The Last in Line" from the tribute album.
The fourth annual "Bowl For Ronnie" celebrity bowling party, benefiting the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, will take place on Thursday, October 25 at PINZ Bowling Center in Studio City, California. The event will be hosted by television and radio personality Eddie Trunk, who is heard on SiriusXM's Volume channel and whose new TV series "TrunkFest" airs on AXS TV. The "Bowl For Ronnie" will feature a celebrity bowling tournament and a raffle drawing for prizes and memorabilia. Last year's event brought in $49,000 for the cancer charity, which is now in its ninth year of raising awareness and much-needed funding for cancer research.