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Vandergrift rocker has soft spot for sick children

| Thursday, July 31, 2008

Head shaved and body blotted in tattoos, Vandergrift rocker Steve Craven hardly looks the part of a saint.

Samantha Detwiler would beg to differ.

Craven and his band, After the Fall, will play host to a two-day charity concert. Proceeds will go toward treatment of Detwiler's 5-month-old son, Mikey McCully, who has a heart condition.

"I see Steve (with) all these tattoos," Detwiler says. "I couldn't believe someone like him was doing such a wonderful thing and it's all for kids."

The ninth annual Rock for Life concert will showcase 17 bands Friday and Saturday at Iselin ball field in Young Township, about 5 miles northeast of Apollo-Ridge High School.

"I've said for so long: 'When am I going to get my break• When are things going to change?' " says Detwiler, who lost a home in a fire. "I didn't know a thing about this Rock for Life concert and thought 'What are the chances they'd pick my baby to be the recipient?' They chose Mikey, and I was in shock."

As a charitable effort and musical attraction, Rock For Life has grown more successful each year, Craven says.

"I've had people tell me they took vacation for this," Craven says. "I'm pretty proud of what we've accomplished so far."

On Feb. 8, "Baby Mikey," as he is known to family and friends, was born three months' premature because of Pericardial effusion. The condition is caused by an accumulation of fluid around the heart and forced the newborn into emergency surgery.

Detwiler and the child's father, Mike McCully, were told their newborn son had a 25 percent chance of surviving the operation.

Baby Mikey's condition is stable, but he receives oxygen treatments and must be in a sterile environment at all times. The cost of caring for him has forced Detwiler and McCully to neglect rent and car payments.

Last year, Craven says, more than $7,000 was raised for leukemia-stricken 7-year-old David Heidel.

This year, the goal is $10,000.

"This is going to hopefully get us caught back up," Detwiler says. "This can help pay for gas to get him down to Pittsburgh, supplies to fix up his room and help down the road in case Mikey needs something big."

As they do with every applicant, Craven, drummer and concert co-founder Matt Ferrante and the Rock For Life board subjected Detwiler to an application process.

"We always want a meet-and-greet, because we want to make sure the money goes where it should," Craven says.

He visited the McCully household and left feeling sad -- and determined.

"I have two kids. They're both healthy," he says. "I can't imagine going through what these parents did."

Craven often thinks back to 2005 Rock for Life honoree Alex Hooks of Ford City, whose cancer is in remission. Hooks' parents will attend this year as volunteers.

"Understand this kid was not supposed to make it," Craven says. "He is a character, and we bring him up on stage every year. This kid lives for it."

After receiving the OK from his doctor, Baby Mikey is expected to make a quick, on-stage cameo this year.

It's at that moment, Craven says, everyone -- haircuts and tattoos aside -- should be reminded of the saint within.

"You do sense it in the crowd. It's a gut check for all of us," Craven says. "These kids might never throw a baseball or go fishing. It makes us realize if you're having a bad day, stop whining. It could be a lot worse."

Additional Information:

Rock for Life

When: 6 p.m.-midnight Fri.; noon-midnight Sat.

Where: Iselin ball field, Young Township, 5 miles northeast of Apollo-Ridge High School

Admission: $20 for two days (same price for one day); tickets available at the gate

How to get there: From Apollo, take Route 56 past Apollo-Ridge High School. Pass Double K Ice Cream, and make a right turn onto Elders Ridge Road, then right onto Iselin Road (Route 3021). Follow to the village of Iselin. Ballfield is on the left.

Food: Food can be taken to the concert or bought on site from vendors

Details: e-mail info@rockforlifeconcert.com

Additional Information:

Schedule of bands

Friday: 6 p.m., Acoustic Opener; 7 p.m., The Mourning Sun; 8 p.m., GT Goodtimes; 9 p.m., From Within; 10 p.m., Big House Pete; 11 p.m., Skell

Saturday Noon, Viva Las Vegas; 1 p.m., Shattered; 2 p.m., Sickle Eye; 3 p.m., Here and Now; 4 p.m., On the Rocks; 5 p.m., Strap on the Bomb; 6 p.m., Five-2-One; 7 p.m., BUM; 8 p.m., All My Monsters; 9 p.m., Kaj; 10 p.m., After the Fall; 11 p.m., Level SD

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