The warriors that are parents of pediatric cancer patients have a new and perhaps unlikely ally: Twisted Sister's Dee Snider. The '80s metal band frontman appears in a video directed by "Mindfreak" magician Criss Angel, singing an acoustic, stripped-down version of his iconic 1984 battle cry for disaffected youth, "We're Not Gonna Take It," to help raise awareness for pediatric cancer research and treatment. The result is surprisingly powerful and emotional, and it brings new meaning to the song any parent who grew up in the '80s already knows by heart.
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Angel and Snider's video has over four million views since it debuted this week. "The response blindsided us," Snider told TODAY Parents. "Thirty years ago, I never could have imagined this. It's amazing and wonderful. There is no degree of separation in the world when it comes to cancer — everyone can relate to it because cancer touches all of us."
Since 2001, Angel has been quietly working with children's causes like the Make-a-Wish Foundation, donating his magic and money to children who were sick and fighting cancer. Then he had a child of his own, and in 2015 he received the call he said is every parent's worst nightmare: his son, Johnny Crisstopher, was diagnosed with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at the age of just 20 months.
"I was overwhelmed with emotion," Angel told TODAY Parents, his voice cracking. "I decided to do something positive, because there has to be a reason why I am in this situation." Now, he said, "This is my mission in life. I’m one of those families that I met before I became a father. I'm one of them now, and I want to put a light on this and be a voice for these children who suffer with life and death every moment of every day."
Frustrated with the relatively meager funds directed toward pediatric cancer, Angel decided to take matters into his own hands by forming HELP (Heal Every Life Possible), a 501c3 charitable foundation that sends every penny it raises to fund pediatric cancer research and treatment. Angel covers all the overhead costs for HELP himself.
Only 4 percent of U.S. federal cancer research funding is dedicated solely to children's cancer research, according to the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
Angel made the video with Snider, his longtime friend and fellow Long Islander, to raise awareness about pediatric cancer and his foundation, which is hosting a live fund-raising event at the Luxor in Las Vegas on September 12. The glitzy benefit will feature a live auction and performances by Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas legends Siegfried & Roy and Wayne Newton, as well as musicians such as Gene Simmons, Richie Sambora and Vince Neil. Angel's goal is to raise $1 million for pediatric cancer with the event.
"This is the most important event not only of my life, but in my effort to help get people focused on what these kids are going through," Angel said.
Johnny Crisstopher, now 2, is still going through 1,095 days of treatment for his leukemia, which, fortunately, has a high cure rate. For now, he is taking chemotherapy in the form of a pill every day and has blood work once a month. Images from his treatment appear in the video alongside those of Kelly Gonzalez, whose daughter Jacey was diagnosed with ALL as a child like Johnny Crisstopher. In the video, Jacey, now grown, shaves her mother's head while Gonzalez holds a picture of Jacey when she was going through treatments.
Angel said magic is different for him now that he is a parent of a child with cancer. "Magic, up to this point, has been about a puzzle, about asking, 'How do you do that?'" he said. "My new show is dedicated to these children, and I am using my art of magic to create images onstage that will move people. It's about the magic of emotion, beyond the trick and the puzzle."
Angel, who has his own theater and permanent show at the Luxor, raises money for the foundation at his show every night and said he is determined to "do better" for children battling cancer.
"They have their whole life ahead of them, and these kids are dying at 3, 4, 5, 10, or 12 years old," he said. "Even if they beat cancer as a child, the effects of it can be devastating. We've got to do a lot more and we can do a lot more, and if I can be a grain of sand on that beach, I will."
To buy a ticket, bid on an auction item, or donate to Criss Angel's pediatric cancer foundation, HELP, visit his website. The acoustic version of "We're Not Gonna Take It" will be available on Dee Snider's upcoming solo album, "We Are The Ones."