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Bands line up for Rock for Life benefit concert

| Sunday, July 29, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
William Domiano
Slant 6 performs at the summer's Rock for Life benefit in 2011. William Domiano,
Jennifer Heymers Photography
Nicholas Leitmeyer, 8, of Templeton Jennifer Heymers Photography
Brittani Jean Kemerer is one of the two children who will benefit from the Rock for Life concert. submitted
The San Diego band 40 oz. to Freedom will headline the 2012 rock for Life benefit. submitted
Jennifer Heymers Photography
Rock for Life founding band After the Fall will perform at the 2012 benefit. From left: Matt Ferrante, drums; Doug Carnahan, vocals/guitar; Steve Craven, bass; Brandon Cornish, guitar. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Heymers Photography

The beat, both musically and symbolically, goes on for Rock for Life this weekend.

That remains good news for those who want to sample the diversity of talent found in the Alle-Kiski Valley and region, as 17 bands of a variety of genres prepare to deliver energetic performances Friday and Saturday at Iselin ball field, Young Township.

More importantly, the gathering that includes options for camping and socializing for all ages, continues to deliver a message of hope and support for families whose children are facing serious health challenges.

This year, proceeds of the Alle-Kiski Valley's largest music fest, which has raised an estimated $70,000-plus since it began 13 years ago, is intended to help Brittani Jean Kemerer, 13, formerly of Parks, who needs a liver transplant, and Nicholas Leitmeyer, 8, of Templeton, who has a genetic disorder causing nonmalignant tumors to grow inside his body, requiring surgeries to fuse his spine.

“This is a huge opportunity for people from all walks of life to play a part in helping others,” says Doug Carnahan of Natrona Heights, the new lead vocalist-guitarist of rockers After the Fall.

The local bands donate their time and talent to this cause every year. “It's about doing your part as a fellow human being,” Carnahan says. “We all have gifts and talents that were given to us, and I believe it's our duty to not only hone these gifts, but also to use them in a positive way, whenever the situation presents itself, to help others.”

Jarrod Hillery of Avonmore, a member of the group Ill Fated, agrees. “There really isn't a better reason than using your music and talents to help others,” he says. “We're very blessed that we are able to be part of it.”

The weekend really is a celebration of life, says Steve Craven of Bethel who, with After the Fall bandmate Matt Ferrante of Avonmore, are Rock for Life founders and organizers.

“Those who have never been here should come and find out for themselves,” he says. “I think this year will be the biggest one yet.”

There is no shortage of musicians who want to be part of it. “I have a waiting list of over 200 bands that want to perform,” Ferrante says. “We have an excellent selection of local and national music this year. We're very excited to have our first national act from San Diego (40 Oz To Freedom, a Sublime tribute band). We also have a lot of returning favorites.”

The efforts of the nonprofit Rock for Life, organized and operated by musicians and other caring members of the Alle-Kiski Valley, continue to be boosted by the new partnership with Leechburg Moose, says Craven and Ferrante.

“The Moose stepped in and basically saved Rock for Life concerts,” says Craven. “I think there will be a lot of amazing things in the future by joining forces with the Leechburg Moose, who now own the ball field.” Rock for Life was on the verge of losing the field because of taxes and Craven and Ferrante were spending money out of their own pockets to try to keep it going.

It has been a great partnership, Ferrante says. “The Moose volunteers are extremely organized and hardworking. They built our new covered stage, ramp, fences and concession area, and made many other construction renovations,” he says. “They have made a world of difference. We're very grateful.”

Dane Scott, lead singer and guitarist for 40 Oz. to Freedom, is looking forward to being part of the experience for the first time.

“Anything we can do to help someone through music is a true gift in life,” he says.

Cate Fouse of the East Vandergrift-based acoustic duo SuffaCate has been a part of all but one of the 13 years of shows.

“To see the kids that are sponsored on stage brings a tear to my eye every time,” she says. “You see them genuinely happy and smiling, and they put in the back of their mind what they go through day to day and live for just that moment. They are looking back at the crowd with a look of, ‘Wow. All these people are here to help me.' “

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or

Performances to help children who face medical challenges

Rock for Life's support goes beyond financial aid, says the mother of one of the children being helped.

“They have become an extended family for Brittani and all of us,” says Christie Lamison of Blairsville, formerly of Vandergrift, whose daughter, Brittani Jean Kemerer, is in need of a liver transplant. Brittani's father is Ronald Kemerer of Gilpin.

“Brittani is very shy and is kind of overwhelmed with the attention, but these guys have a way of making her feel comfortable, and when she is around them, she does nothing but smile,” Lamison says. “They have made her feel like a princess. I'm extremely grateful.”

So is Andy Leitmeyer of Templeton, father of Nick Leitmeyer, who will enter third-grade at West Hills Elementary this year and is facing spinal surgery.

“The people involved with Rock for Life are some of the most giving and caring in the world,” Andy Leitmeyer says. “I only wish that there were more people like them, willing to give their time to help others and have a great time doing it,” he says.

His son is enjoying the new people he is meeting and friends he is making because of Rock for Life. “He gets excited about After the Fall (the organization's founding band) and loves that he gets to hang out with them and their families,” Andy Leitmeyer says.

“He is really interested in music, WWE (wrestling) and his mom (Jen Anthony, formerly of Kittanning).” Leitmeyer tells people his son is “strong-hearted.” “Unless you were told, you wouldn't even know he is sick. He plays hard and lives the same way, so to speak.”

Christie Lamison hopes that a liver transplant will enable Brittani to live a more normal life. “She has a feeding tube in her stomach that gets hooked up to a continuous feeding machine overnight, so she hesitates to do many things kids love to do,” Lamison says.

Brittani has not grown since fourth grade, and it bothers her that she is considerably smaller than most of her friends, her mother adds.

“She is very independent, caring and loving, and very intelligent when it comes to her disease,” Lamison says. ”She is also a great help and support with her baby brother T.J, (age 4), who has many health issues.”

“With everything we go through, we try to keep our heads up and stay as positive as we can,” she says. “We have a wonderful support team behind us that helps a lot.”

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