Mike Perrier is a pay-it-forward kind of guy. Since 2015, he has been the driving force behind the musical extravaganza Thunder in the Valley Festival in Easthampton, MA. For the last three of those six years, he designated Baystate Children’s Hospital as the sole recipient of the funds raised from the festival.
Spearheading such a charitable event would be an incredible and selfless undertaking for anyone. But Mike suffers from interstitial lung disease, which often causes irreversible scarring of the lungs. When diagnosed 10 years ago, he was given about five years to live.
The 57-year-old Westfield resident is grateful for his survival – and says he tries to live every day the best he can. And part of that positive outlook is paying it forward to help children with illnesses to live their best lives.
“Children are the future of this world. Let’s show them and help them so they can be all they can be – and hopefully they will be in a position to pay it forward someday,” Mike said. “I learned that giving is so much better than receiving.”
Disabled from his disease, Mike focuses his energies on the festival, which he describes as his “job” 365 days a year. The festival showcases affordable entertainment from national and regional bands, offers delicious eats from gourmet food trucks, plus games, vendors, fireworks, and more.
“Just being able to bring a bunch of people together to listen to great music and bring awareness to Baystate and the work they do for children makes you feel good inside,” said Mike, whose love of music includes working as a DJ for his entertainment business.
Another part of his generous spirit comes from his involvement for the past 10 years as a Freemason, a men’s organization whose values embody faith, hope, and charity, Mike said. After initially working with fellow Freemasons to put on the festival to benefit several children’s charities starting in 2015, the work became too much for some of the members. So, with the help of his friend Bob Alves, Mike applied for and received a 501c3 nonprofit designation under the name Unbroken Wings, Inc., to continue the supportive work of the festival that in 2018 started donating all proceeds to Baystate Children’s Hospital.
Like so many other events affected by the COVID pandemic, Mike was forced to cancel the festival in 2020. Despite not having as much time to organize, the festival took place successfully in 2021 at a new venue, Molitoris Farm in Easthampton, thanks to the generosity of its owners who donated the space.
The next Thunder in the Valley Festival is scheduled for June 25, 2022, at Molitoris Farm.
“Come spend a day singing, dancing, or just listening to amazing bands while actually giving back to our community and children,” Mike said.
Photo courtesy of LJ Mickna Photography