'Rock for Autism' set for Jergel's Rhythm Grille in Warrendale

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Local musicians are using their talents to bring music to children on the autism spectrum through a special fundraising event.

Local bands The Elliotts, The Options, as well as local musician Maddie Georgi will perform in “Rock for Autism,” on Thursday, April 18, at Jergel's Rhythm Grille in Warrendale to raise money for the Autism Center of Pittsburgh to start a music therapy program for children with autism spectrum disorders.

With April designated as Autism Awareness month, Renee Georgi of Hampton wanted to organize a fundraising event to benefit local families dealing with an autism diagnosis.

“I think there is so much going on awareness wise and fundraising wise on a national level ­­— and that's great — but there's a real local need that isn't necessarily being met,” Georgi said. “I wanted to figure out how to help local families.”

The Autism Center of Pittsburgh has been working for several months to set up a new music therapy program. The biggest hurdle has been funding, so the staff is excited for the ‘Rock for Autism' event.

“We were floored when she told us she was organizing this,” said Becca Major, associate director of the Autism Center of Pittsburgh, who added that the staff hopes to have the program up and running within the coming months.

“Our kids with autism, music is huge for them, it inspires them and helps them to learn. When you put something to music it makes it easier to learn. It also helps them regulate themselves. There are so many benefits, we're really excited.”

Maddie Georgi, Renee's daughter who currently is studying at Allegheny College in Meadville, will return to her hometown to perform in the benefit concert.

“The first song I wrote was ‘Take My Hand' and was used to raise money for the Autism Center of Pittsburgh … that was the catalyst of my song writing career, realizing I could use my gift to raise awareness and send a message,” said Maddie Georgi, who wrote her first song about her brother, Jake, who has autism. “Anytime I can give back to the autism support community, they have given me so much support over the years and my family.”

The Options, based out of Hampton, also jumped at the chance to help the autism support group.

The band has been dedicated to autism awareness and fundraising since brothers Jake and Zack Leya wrote their first songs together in elementary school and sold them with proceeds benefitting autism groups in support of their cousin who has autism.

With the addition of Matt Bauman of Hampton and Shannon Drew of Cranberry, The Options put out their first album, “Alright,” in the fall with all proceeds going toward funding a scholarship for a student to attend Pittsburgh's Joey Travolta's Film Camp, an inclusion summer camp to benefit students on the autism spectrum.

“It's a great event, and they're very excited to play with Maddie,” said Chris Leya, the band's manager and father of Jake and Zack.

During The Options set, the musicians also are looking forward to presenting Carolyn Hare, director of Pittsburgh's Joey Travolta's Film Camp, with a check for $1,800 — the proceeds from their album sales.

The Elliotts, a local group of musicians who specialize in performing classic rock, will round out the evening's entertainment.

Renee Georgi said the event will focus on the music to enable people to enjoy a night of entertainment while learning a little more about the needs of the autism support community. Georgi said she is striving to limit overhead costs to provide the greatest benefit to the Autism Center of Pittsburgh and the music therapy program.

“We really want to make sure every dollar we raise goes toward the cause,” she said. “We really want to make money, we really want to make this happen.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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