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Jefferson Award winner, December 2019: Mike Gomoll

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SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- Mike Gomoll lost his son to epilepsy. That loss began his fight to find a cure.

4-year-old Joey Gomoll suffered from Dravet syndrome.

"We were under 24/7 threat of seizures," says Mike. "Dravet is a really heinous form, Joey was non verbal."

But through music, he found a voice.

"When that music came on he would grab everybody in the room and you had to get up and dance. He found his own way to kind of communicate and interact, even though the world was kind of a confusing place for him," says Mike.

"We lost Joe just short of his 5th birthday on March 30, 2010."

As Mike and his family grieved…

"We knew that if there was something we could do to make it easier so another family wouldn't have to do that stuff, that was kind of what we needed to do."

They turned to the one thing that brought Joey so much joy, music, and started Joey's Song, a yearly concert to raise money for epilepsy research.

"I wanted every penny raised to go into trying to find treatments and cures."

That first year, 2010, they raised $12,000 and it's grown rapidly. At this year's concert, they hit nearly $80,000, bringing the total so far to more than $400,000 donated over the years.

The two main charities they give their money to is CURE, which is Citizens United in Research for Epilepsy and Gio's Garden.

"What Gio's does is provide respite care services for kids like Joey. It's as much for the families as it is for the child," says Mike.

He organizes the concerts from start to finish throughout the year and has recruited some pretty big names in the music business.

The artists who donate their time to the cause include Brian Ray from Paul McCartney's band, Butch Vig from Garbage, Chris Collingwood from Fountains of Wayne, Miguel Cervantes who is the lead in the Chicago production of Hamilton, Daxx Nielsen from Cheap Trick, Miles Nielsen, Cory Chisel and Trapper Schoepp, among others.

But the biggest name to take the stage this year, 17-year-old Sam Gomoll, who played a tribute to his little brother.

"It means a lot, because my brother meant so much to me and music was such a great outlet for him, since he had such a hard life," said Sam. "I'm kind of playing to him. It means a lot, it's very emotional for me."

And emotional for his dad as well, as together, they carry on Joey's legacy.

"I talk to him and I let him (Joey) know. I think he'd be the one on the stage dancing," says Mike.

You can still support the mission of Joey's Song by going to the website to donate.

Amber Noggle

Anchor, 27 News at 5, 6 and 10

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