‘VOICES FOR A CURE,’ ON JUNE 24

Until last year, Samantha Scher and Alixandra Macmillan-Fiedel had never organized a fundraising event. Which is why raising $46,000 last August for “Voices For a Cure,” their concert to benefit the Scleroderma Research Foundation, could have been a startling surprise. But the 17-year-old Scher and 19-year-old Macmillan-Fiedel maintain that the achievement happened largely because they never took their eye off the prize.

“Most people were telling us we couldn’t do it. We had no experience whatsoever, but we committed our entire summer to realize Voices For a Cure as a success,” Scher said during a recent interview at Montecito Deli. “We were really optimistic.”

Voices For a Cure returns for a second round on June 24 at 7:30 pm at the Lobero Theatre with the two Montecito-raised girls again in charge. Banking on last year’s well-received lineup of bands, Scher and Macmillan-Fiedel have again assembled a roster full of musicians with local connections and who play with enough verve and edge to entertain a young audience. Crosby Loggins, a staple at benefit concerts, will offer his voice and guitar, and he’ll partner up with other musical acts such as The Coral Sea, Holden and a surprise guest whom event organizers say is a member of the 2005 Voices For a Cure. Also performing will be Macmillan-Fiedel, a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, who’ll be playing the guitar and singing songs she wrote.

“I’m going to do something new,” she says. “I’ve always just had my guitar, but this time I wrote something for the piano and I’ll have my dad perform.”

The upcoming event’s two mavens recently began selling raffle tickets to the show, though this time with the support of 20 friends taking shifts at booths set up around town. The tickets are part of a giant grab bag of raffle items – from a Sheryl Crow-signed guitar to a six-night trip to Hawaii (airfare not included).

“It’s really more of a team effort than last year,” says Scher, a graduating senior at Laguna Blanca who heads to New York University this fall. “It’s kind of a great chain reaction to start.”

Actor and comedian Bob Saget will again assume the role of master of ceremonies. Saget, whose sister Gay died of scleroderma, has been one of the nation’s most persevering activists for finding a cure for the fatal disease. Every year, along with a battery of big name comedians, from Jay Leno to Robin Williams, Saget performs stand-up routines at “Cool Comedy-Hot Cuisine,” the Scleroderma Research Foundation’s flagship benefit. The 2006 event in Los Angeles raised more than $1 million.

“He’s really an amazing person,” Scher says of Saget, whom she’s known since she was three. “He’ll do anything he can for scleroderma research.”

In May of 2002, Scher’s mom, Sharon Monsky, passed away due to complications with scleroderma. Monsky had been diagnosed with the disease in 1984 and doctors had given her no more than two years to live. In the 18 years she spent battling her symptoms, which include disfiguring, Monsky founded the Scleroderma Research Foundation, attracting large swaths of public attention and large purses of research money from well-heeled celebrities.

“There simply wasn’t a braver more determined human being on the face of the planet,” Robin Williams once said about her.

For Scher and Macmillan-Fiedel, this event will be their last in Santa Barbara. The baton, they say, will be handed to Scher’s younger sister, Montana. But Scher and Macmillan-Fiedel, whose respective colleges are only 35 miles apart, say they might put on a scleroderma benefit concert in New York.

While they’ve done their part for scleroderma in Santa Barbara, they point to the importance of touching other areas less familiar with the disease’s devastation – 300,000 people in the United States alone.

“Scleroderma is not a normal disease in that it affects more people than leukemia and muscular dystrophy,” Scher says. “I’m really proud of our job so far.”