It’s Tonic week in Indianapolis, which is, by definition, the week before Thanksgiving. Which also means that I invariably start thinking about the list of things for which I am thankful. Which invariably starts with people. Which, to complete the circle, leads me back to Tonic.

I learned years ago that I had to accept responsibility for Tonic Ball. When people asked if I was the guy who started this event, I learned that the correct answer was “yes.” It made things easier–and it was true, up to a point. But the reality is much more complicated.

I was the person who said, “Let’s do an event–a music event where a bunch of bands cover the songs of one artist and we give all the money we raise to charity.” I admit it. But….

It was my friend and writing mentor Dan Barden who gave me the idea. Dan and I discovered we had an affinity for the same kind of music, and we were talking one night after his writing workshop. He was telling me about the Loser’s Lounge, a tribute show in which New York musicians pay homage to anyone and everyone from Jethro Tull to Henry Mancini. “Wouldn’t it be fun to do a show like that and give the money to charity?” Dan asked. Yes, I thought. Yes, it would. I filed the idea in my brain for activation at a later date.

Help for the show–that started with my friends David Chalfie and Todd Robinson. I walked into Todd’s store, Luna Music, one Saturday morning; David was hanging out drinking coffee. “I think I’m going to start a benefit show,” I said. “I’ll help you if you do,” said David. “I bet I can get a room donated,” said Todd.

That room was Radio Radio. It was a newish club in Fountain Square–a rough part of town that was still years away from being “the next big thing.” The club’s owner, Tufty Clough, was amenable to the idea. He’d get the bar, we’d get the door. Perfect.

My great pal and superb freelance writer Greg Perry named the show “Tonic Ball.” “Tonic,” he reasoned, resonates as a term used in mixology, music, and medicine, and was thus perfect for what we were doing: a music event in a bar aimed at helping to make something better. “Ball”–well, it was certainly going to be a ball. The name was just weird enough to stick.

After I drew up a plan, we took it to Jean Paison, who’d started an organization called Second Helpings. We asked her if we could put on a show to raise money for them. She not only agreed, but also became an active member of our committee. I’m sure she thought we were crazy, but then, she was on a rather quixotic quest of her own, and it takes one to know one.

I decided that first year that we were going to play Gram Parsons songs. Of course, we needed bands. I didn’t know any. But I mentioned the idea to my friend Dave Lehr, who was working for Galyan’s, and he mentioned it to his coworker Maura Ahearn, and she mentioned it to her boyfriend Matt Boyer, who mentioned it to his bandmate Brian Deer, and Citizens Band became our first committed musical act. (Later, Maura become one of Well Done’s first employees. Later later, Brian became our first full-time web developer.)

I know that anyone who ever ran a rock show thought we were nuts to think we could get fifteen bands on and off a stage in one night, in any sort of orderly or timely fashion. We not only did it, but we actually ran on time. And by “we,” I mean my friend Duncan Alney.

Tonic Gallery, the art event that started in Year Two, was all Paul Wilson. An amazingly talented freelance art director, Paul said, “I have this idea for an art show to go with Tonic Ball.” Most people thought we were nuts to add such a huge component in our second year. But I knew Paul was right: it was a great idea. Immediately, we doubled the money we raised.

Also that second year, I thought it would be fun to play the show myself. I asked my pal Scott Woolgar–yes, that same Scott Woolgar who is now my business partner–if he’d help me put together a band. Scott is also the finest guitar player I know, and he recruited a great band–and named it Yoko Moment. As a result, the good people of Indianapolis have to listen to me sing once a year, whether they want to or not.

Finally, there’s My Beautiful Wife. Becky and I were sitting in a bar one night after a client meeting–we were just friends at the time–when I told her about this idea I had. She told me I had to do it. It was her idea to do it for Second Helpings. I drew up the plans for the event hoping against hope that she’d agree to help, because I had the world’s biggest crush on her. She attended every meeting. She had experience with big events. She educated me as to my responsibilities as the head of this crazy thing.

It was her idea to do the show on the Friday before Thanksgiving. It was perfect.

And now we’re going into our ninth year. This year, Tonic Ball and Tonic Gallery will raise well over $40,000 for the best cause we know. Scores of people have been involved in the planning and execution of these events–and I’m going to stop naming names right now for fear of leaving someone out.

Did I start Tonic Ball? Perhaps. It’s still the answer I give when someone asks. It’s simple and true and moves the conversation forward.

But mostly, I was a good creative director. I recognized good ideas. I helped shape them. I made decisions. I hope that, along the way I’ve always given credit where it’s due. It’s never been about me. It’s always been about the spirit of the event and the good of the cause.

The cause is feeding people who wouldn’t have a good meal today without Second Helpings. The spirit is the spirit of Thanksgiving: knowing that we are blessed and giving something back.

Tonic is my own, personal Thanksgiving. Thanks to all of you who’ve made this the best annual event in Indianapolis. Let’s do it again.