ASBURY PARK — The Light of Day Foundation's annual WinterFest may be best known for surprise concert appearances by Bruce Springsteen in 11 out of the event's 16 years to date, but the 10-day fundraising festival, which returns to New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia starting Friday, means so much more than that to the people it primarily helps.

The foundation grew out of a one-night-only concert in Red Bank in 1998, in honor of artist manager Bob Benjamin's 40th birthday. Benjamin had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease two years prior, and now the proceeds from WinterFest — $525,000 in 2016 — go toward the ongoing fight against Parkinson's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and progressive supranuclear palsy.

From the perspective of Tony Pallagrosi, Light of Day co-founder and executive director, there is no set fundraising goal for 2017. For a charity that brought in just $2,000 on that first night 19 years ago, any increase over the previous year is a good thing.

"We utilize the power of music to raise money and awareness in our ongoing battle to defeat Parkinson's, ALS, and PSP in our lifetime," Pallagrosi said, in explaining the group's mission. "We support research organizations; we re-grant money to organizations that fund specific research organizations."

Pallagrosi said Light of Day has targeted four very specific initiatives it hopes to implement over the next four years: "Boxing for Bob," a therapy-based program for Parkinson's patients; speech therapy efforts to help those with Parkinson's, ALS, and PSP; a brick-and-mortar resource center; and a beach park to accommodate people with these illnesses, modeled after something similar in Virginia Beach.

He said the resource center will be especially crucial.

"We can put a face on our organization and actually touch people on a daily basis that are suffering from these illnesses," he said.

Light of Day WinterFest 2017 kicks off on Friday, Jan. 6 at Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair. Additional events will follow through Jan. 16 in Philadelphia, Staten Island, Manhattan, and Asbury Park. The Manhattan show, on Jan. 11, is a memorial birthday celebration for late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

A full schedule of WinterFest events and performers, and information on how to get involved, can be found at lightofday.org.

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. His favorite Bruce Springsteen song is "Meeting Across the River." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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