Armstrong Christmas Ensemble to benefit local family
KITTANNING — Jolena Reefer and her mom, Susie, have been big supporters of the annual Armstrong Christmas Ensemble. But this year the ensemble will be playing its holiday concert to support them.
Every year the ensemble performs a free concert to help benefit someone in the area, said director Mary Gibbons.
The Reefers, who have been hit hard by illness, were chosen to be the recipients of this year's benefit.
“We're very honored and grateful,” said Jolena.
Jolena, 29, of Kittanning, was diagnosed with late stage Lyme disease and has been sick since 2010.
By Thanksgiving Day of last year, she said she had lost weight, lost her memory, couldn't drive, couldn't work and was confined to a wheelchair. Since receiving treatment she has started to slowly regain her strength. And although she has not yet been able to return to work, she just recently started driving again.
However, just as Jolena's health started to improve, Susie's began to decline.
In September, Susie was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer – caused not from smoking, but from a genetic mutation.
Jolena said her mom is doing a clinical trial with UPMC, taking pills designed to slow the spread of the disease.
“Her biggest hurdle is her energy,” said Jolena, adding that her mom is resting up and hopes to attend the concert on Thursday.
Friends and family have been there through everything and have been very supportive, said Jolena.
And so have area businesses and agencies who have stepped up to provide gift baskets to be raffled off at the benefit concert.
“We're grateful to church groups, to the (Richard Snyder) YMCA, to F & M Bank and to the Area Agency on Aging,” said Jolena.
Jolena, who has been playing the piano since she was 5, said she loves the idea of the Christmas Ensemble.
She said music has been an emotional outlet for her throughout her life. Playing piano was one of the few things she was still able to do during her illness.
Jolena, who plays piano at Furnace Run Chapel, graduated from Kittanning High School where she was a member of the school band.
“A lot of my friends are playing in the concert,” she said.
Gibbons said the original brainstorm for the ensemble came from Kittanning Firemen's Band members Nick and Mike Totos and Tyler Woodside.
The ensemble is made up of members of the Kittanning Firemen's Band, the Armstrong Concert Band, Gibbons Big Band, the Butler Symphony and members of the Kittanning, Ford City and West Shamokin high school bands.
Jolena said she likes the fact that musicians of all ages get to play music together.
“It's a really good opportunity for teens to play with adults in a more serious ensemble,” she said.
Gibbons said the ensemble is made up of approximately 80 musicians and includes students, music teachers and retired music teachers.
“It has truly become a community affair and a wonderful outpouring,” said Gibbons.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Connellsville gets spring scouring
- Connellsville-region grads to converge for Golden Reunion
- Braddock man charged in fatal stabbing
- Henry: Job and education fair slated for Wednesday in Connellsville
- Boy, 15, charged with firing shots in Brighton Heights
- Veterans charity to receive funds
- NASA head tells Pitt grads their generation will ‘walk the face of Mars’
- Allegheny Valley board candidates hold Colfax Elementary fate
- Behind starter Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Diamondbacks
- Man in critical condition after Manchester shooting
- Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame inductees share lessons of athletics