Rock For Life drums up help for those in need
Before taking the stage each time they perform a music show, Ricky Wolf and the members of his Midwestern rock band huddle together, using the moment to build their excitement.
“Four guys, one band, one dream,” they say boisterously beforehand, pumping their fists in the air as part of a preshow ritual.
“We all like to stretch out,” Wolf, 34, says, referring to the spirited performances by his band, XFactor1, for which he is the lead singer. He likens them to “putting Ping-Pong balls in a dryer,” adding, “You can't fake passion.”
That enthusiasm will likely help carry the band during its headlining performance at a benefit concert in the Alle-Kiski Valley starting Aug. 1.
The concert, Rock For Life, will feature 18 bands of various genres, most of them from the area. It's set to take place at Iselin ball field, in Young Township, until midnight Saturday.
Beyond the camping and vendors scheduled to appear, the idea is to raise money for a 14-year-old girl from NuMine who is suffering from liver disease. Abby Bowser is living with primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, and autoimmune hepatitis, both of which are inflammations of that organ. She is in eighth grade, attending school only for half-days when her health allows.
“It wears her out pretty quickly,” says her mother, Sharon Anthony, 41. Abby was diagnosed with her condition in 2012.
For Anthony, who also has a 12-year-old daughter, the concert is significant not only because of the financial support, but because it has helped draw attention to her daughter's condition.
“It's overwhelming,” Anthony says, “when you think about how kind people are. ... That alone is a really comforting thing.”
The concert, in its 15th year, began as a way to raise money for a local firefighter battling colon cancer. Organizers say it's the largest of its kind in the Valley and draws as many as 1,000 people every year — some of them gather days in advance, camping and building fires.
For beneficiaries and their family members, it has helped ease the burden.
“It's a circle,” says Steve Craven of Ford City, one of the lead organizers who helped start the concert, which is part of a nonprofit run by the local Moose Lodge. Craven says one of the concert's past beneficiaries, Brittani Kemerer, underwent a successful liver transplant a year-and-a-half ago.
Craven says organizers hope to raise at least $5,000 for Abby's medical bills, including a liver transplant.
In the week leading up to the show, musicians and others will have a chance to meet Abby.
“You can't put a price on that,” Wolf says. His XFactor1 has played in previous years and has appeared at similar shows.
The Columbus, Ohio, band has charted in Billboard and is set to release its fifth album, “Reboot: The System,” in September.
Besides drawing attention each year from several dozen bands seeking to schedule a performance, organizers have received a number of requests in recent years from parents of sick children.
Beneficiaries are selected based partly on interviews with their family.
Jake Flannick is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.