County Fare: Disney-inspired concert to benefit children with cancer

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On this heels of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Berkshire musical duo, Samantha Talora and Ron Ramsay present at noon this Saturday, "Once Upon a Dream," a Disney-inspired concert in collaboration with AYJ Fund's programs for kids with cancer and to fund cancer research.

It is estimated by researchers that each day, 42 families in the United States will receive the devastating news that their child or teen has cancer.

The benefit concert of popular Disney and children's singalongs will take place at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's Church Street Center, located at 375 Church St., in North Adams.

A meet-and-greet photo op with Disney princesses begins at noon, and all are invited to dress up as their favorite characters too. There will also be a Chinese auction. Music begins at 1 p.m., with MCLA's a capella singing group The Allegrettos opening, followed by Talora and Ramsay and special guests. Tickets are $5 for children, students and seniors; $8 for adults; up to $25 per family. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ayjfund.org or can be reserved by calling 413-652-1602.

The AYJ Fund brings support and social connections through technology to young people with cancer, and also contributes funds to the research on Gliomatosis Cerebri and other brain cancers

The fund is dedicated to the legacy of Anna Yan Ji Arabia of North Adams who bravely lived with Gliomatosis Cerebri for three and a half years, while being treated at the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana Farber. She died on Valentine's Day 2013 at the age of 16, but continues to be honored through the mission and work of the memorial fund.

A leg up on muscular dystrophy

The Lee Fire Department has given muscular dystrophy the boot to the amount of $1,666.

The local volunteer firefighters conducted its first-ever "Fill the Boot" campaign last month collecting $666 in donations during the Taste of Lee block party, part of the town's Founders Weekend festivities. The remaining $1,000 came from a challenge match by Onyx Specialty Papers in South Lee.

On Monday at the Lee Fire Station, the firefighters presented a check to a representative from the Massachusetts office of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Fill the Boot, whereby people drop cash into a firefighter's iconic footwear, has been a signature fundraising effort used nationally for the MDA for more than 60 years. However, Lee joined the fundraising effort for the first time this year at the suggestion of Fire Chief Ryan Brown, according to Lee firefighter Erin Albert.

Albert helped coordinate the local effort and wasn't surprised by the response.

"The Town of Lee is so generous, people are more than willing to help," she said.

Hurricane relief from the stage, students

Shakespeare & Company held a special benefit performance of "God of Carnage" on Oct. 5 to give back to those impacted by the recent hurricanes. The Berkshire community came out in support, and together raised more than $4,775 for victims of the recent devastation. The proceeds were donated to the One America Appeal to support those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, in communities of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.

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"We're grateful to be able to contribute in some small way to the ongoing relief effort going towards the aftermath of these devastating hurricanes," said Artistic Director Allyn Burrows. "We're about community here at Shakespeare & Company, and that circle extends far and wide. Our hearts go out to those good people trying to put their lives back together."

The One America Appeal was launched by all five living former American presidents to encourage their fellow citizens to support recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey which inundated the Texas Gulf Coast with unprecedented flooding. It was then expanded to include areas most affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Local schools have added to relief efforts as well.

During the opening days of the 2017 school year, seventh grade students in Deb Guachione's English language arts classes at Reid Middle School in Pittsfield responded to a creative writing prompt, which subsequently brought the school community together to help others.

The prompt was: "If you could change places with anyone in the world who would it be and why?"

Guachione reported that "many students wrote about their favorite athletes and movie stars, others wrote about characters in books. And while they all had thoughtful responses, one stood out".

Ella Ives wrote about trading places with volunteers at the American Red Cross. She wrote "I am worried about how badly the state of Texas has been hit by Hurricane Harvey. I wish I could trade places with the Red Cross volunteers who are there helping people rebuild their lives." And what further concerned her at the time was the pending storms in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Her mother lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1989, during the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, and emphasized the need to support storm victims. "She told me about that amazing feeling that runs through your body when you help people in need and I would like to follow in her footsteps," Ives said.

"I want to be there to help give out food and supplies and let people know that we care," the student continued. "I don't like to see people suffer, and I would like to think that we all can make a difference."

According to Guachione, "after students traded writing assignments for peer review, in an effort for students to get to know one another, a larger conversation emerged about how students could help."

The talk turned into action when the kids created a "banding together" campaign to sell wristbands for $1 in the school, and partnered with the student council.

"These students worked hard collecting money in their neighborhoods, at local youth events, and in the community. Everyone including our student body responded positively and generously," the teacher said.

Principal Linda Whitacre applauded the students for having a mission and seeing it through, with dedication.

"I was so proud of their preparedness," said the principal. During the month of September student council members made daily announcements updating the school community about the storms and relief efforts underway, which built momentum for their cause." Whitacre added that she was most impressed with the students' passion and interest in the storms, particularly the hurricane in Puerto Rico, as many of their friends at Reid have personal connections to residents there, as well as other storm-affected sites.

Ultimately, the Reid students raised $1,500 for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Said Ives, "For me personally, organizing this activity was fun and rewarding. I know that the money we raised will go a long way to helping people. That is an amazing feeling."


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