SILVIS, Illinois -- Patrons young and old of all sizes and shapes came together at Chief's Bar and Grill on Feb. 10 to fill the space with Mardi Gras decorations.
The one thing they all have in common? Karaoke.
Quad City Karaoke Meet-Up is a network of people who love to sing. The organization has more than 450 followers on Facebook, but it started with just two.
"We met at Cheeseburger In Paradise in Secaucus, New jersey, on a karaoke night," Heidi Wiens-Leon, founder of Quad City Karaoke Meet-Up, said.
She first met her husband, Victor, through her ears.
"I was on the phone with my mom, and I said, that’s the voice of an angel, and she said, you’re going to marry this man," Wiens-Leon said. "I said I haven't even seen him yet!"
The two met later that night. They later got married with a karaoke-themed reception.
When the two moved to the Quad Cities, they went out singing with four friends. The group grew rapidly.
"Within months, we went from 6 to, I don’t know, a hundred?" she said.
More than just singing
"I decided it needed to benefit something more than just our endeavors to sing music," Wiens-Leon said. "That's when I started looking through and trying to find a charity that I thought would be a driving passion for us.
Events bring in money through public donations and raffle prizes. This money goes toward causes and organizations in the community.
"I've always been very volunteer driven, and so it was another way to find an avenue to help our community," she said.
The group's primary beneficiary is the Quad City Children's Therapy Center.
"They raise a couple hundred bucks on average... over the course of a year, they always make over $1,000. A little bit adds up to a lot," Chris VanSpeybroeck vice president of development with the Children's Therapy Center said. "They've done Children's hospital in Iowa City, they've done individuals."
"The reason we can (do what we do) is because we have people like Heidi," VanSpeybroeck said.
She said in total, they have raised about $20,000 for local charities.
"I always say we aren't sprinting, we're going for distance," she said. "But, I'm hoping tomorrow's meet up will bring in around $200."
The Mardi Gras event is on Friday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. at Chief's Bar and Grill in Silvis, Illinois. Kids are welcome until 11 p.m. The event lasts until 12 a.m.