Women Making Music: Playin’ It Forward – Two Life-Sustaining Benefit/Fundraisers

Concert for Kat Williams & Old Time Country Western Hoedown for Multiple Sclerosis

Two engaging, entertaining, and extremely vital fundraiser benefits are coming up this month and I shout out to all of you to highly consider attending them both! Concert for Kat will take place Saturday, September 10th at The White Horse Black Mountain, Black Mountain, NC at 7:30pm and the Old Time Country Western Hoedown for Multiple Sclerosis is Sunday September 11th at Blue Ghost Brewing Company in Fletcher.

Anne Marie Garic

Anne Marie Garic

Energetic, motivated, kind and caring Anne Marie Garic spreads her strong wings around organizing and galvanizing a volunteer staff to produce the annual Asheville MS Fundraiser. The people who help make it happen, and attendance to her event, grows each year because she knows how to make it fly.

“I started participating in the Bike MS ride seven years ago with a group of friends because a mutual friend had been diagnosed. Plus, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could bike 150 miles in two days! The fact that I am physically able to ride makes it that more significant. I ride for those who can’t. The outcome was, the more I got involved the more I wanted to be involved. As I’ve moved forward with my involvement I’ve met great people who’ve become friends. Plus the MS Society is an exemplary organization.”

It was in 2012 that Garic’s dedication to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society inspired her to plan that first local fundraiser. She asked her friends as well as folks in the community to sponsor or donate their time, services, or money and they did so with great enthusiasm. In previous years, Tressa Thornton of Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues has provided the venue. This year, due to its growth, the 2016 Old Time Country Western Hoedown will be held in a larger venue.

Zachary Horn and Erik Weber, owners and operators of Blue Ghost Brewing Company in Fletcher, have graciously agreed to not only host the event, but to contribute a portion of their profits from that day’s beer sales to the MS organization. It’s especially worth noting that the venue sits on a large property that is kid, pet, picnic, music and HOEDOWN friendly.

There will be smoked BBQ from Circle B Ranch BBQ; dance instructor Esella Thompson will be on hand, teaching a country swing dance class before the music starts at 3:30pm. You see? Everything will be in place for all you Buckaroos and Buckarettes to have a rip roarin’, yee haw good time!

“It seems the throngs of people in our eclectic town who like to dress up in costume just need a good cause, good music, and a good excuse. The idea of attaching a music theme each year to give them a chance to strut their stuff was a fun aspect to incorporate. And this year, we cannot wait to see what everyone comes up with!”

Like Garic says, “It takes a village” to put on a fundraiser of any kind. Service sponsors include Blue Ghost Brewing Company, Acopia Home Loans and Geri Ray, WNC Woman Magazine, PJ Easton Graphic Design Group, Craig Burgwardt Design, and Dancing Moon Print Solutions, Inc. Anne would like to thank her right-hand helper and raffle organizer Helen Rene Brawner whose niece, incidentally, suffers from MS. Graphic artist Paula Easton designs the flyer each year and is the marketing guru. The treasurer and door person for the past three years is Elizabeth Boleyn and the following volunteers who have come forth this year to help with food and decorations are: Lyssa Cross, Jane Sutton, Janet Ledder, and Rebecca Johnson.

The cowboys and cowgirls in the hoedown band this year: Alex Taub on keyboards, guitarist Alec Fehl, Darlyne Cain on keys and vocals, Justin Watt on drums, Aaron Price on guitar and vocals, and Zack Page on stand-up bass. Outstanding area vocalists will join the hoedown band to twang and yodel their way across the high plains of Classic Country tunes. Ellen Trnka will bring her best Loretta Lynn, and Jesse Barry’s got Emmy Lou and George Jones covered. Hal Jackson is the Man in Black revisited while Mare Carmody’s gonna do her thang to Hank Sr. PLUS, she and Shalene Hill will Waltz around Tennessee in beautiful harmony.

Michael “Country” Carver will pay tribute to Merle and David Allen Coe and then King of the Road; Jessie Earl Jr’s gonna Walk the Line. Evalina Everidge will conjure up Patsy and Kristofferson and Audrey Lawrence, lead singer of the “Right Hooks” Band will salute Tammy Wynette… AND… she and Susie Alexander Davis will duet a Waylon and Willie classic! Two fantastically talented Cowpunchers: Workin’ Men Andy Ferrell and Dave Desmelik will cover more Merle and Rodney Crowell. And, no, we haven’t left out Dolly Parton! None other than Asheville Music School Director Charlotte Sommers will be wearing her blonde bouffant wig while scornin’ Jolene!

Sunday, September 11th 3pm-7pm is the day and time, Blue Ghost Brewing Company is the venue, 125 Underwood Rd, Fletcher, NC is the address. Tax-deductible cover/donation for the event is $15.00 for adults, $10.00 for teens and college students, and $5.00 for kids 12 and under. So slip on those cowboy boots, strap on that gaudy belt buckle, and put a Stetson a-top your head and come eat some vittles and scoot-a-boot across the saw dusted dance hall floor, y’all!

For more information call Anne Marie Garic: 504-723-3911 or www.nationalmssociety.org

Many of you learned over the past few months that our beloved Jazz and Blues singer, Kat Williams, was diagnosed with stage five kidney disease; she now is on the list to receive a kidney transplant. In response, the community has already and continues to rally in support of this “never-without-a-cause” musician/advocate.

Many of you learned over the past few months that our beloved Jazz and Blues singer, Kat Williams, was diagnosed with stage five kidney disease; she now is on the list to receive a kidney transplant. In response, the community has already and continues to rally in support of this “never-without-a-cause” musician/advocate.

A ‘Save Kat Williams’ crowdfunding page, organized by Kat’s partner in life, Patrice Boudreaux, is up and running, where they hope to raise money to help lessen the financial burden that procedures and testing and the transplant surgery will end up costing even after insurance. As of early August, they are more than $20,000 closer to meeting the $140,000 goal. Please visit and donate if you can, at the You Caring page: https://www.youcaring.com/kat-williams-596367

In speaking with Kat recently, she was overjoyed and overwhelmed and obviously fatigued from the toll of emotions from this life-changing circumstance. The overflow of support she’s received physically, financially, spiritually, and musically from the community at large is something she is clearly moved by: “It makes me love even more. I’m just this one person who’s got this bad thing in my life. People are stepping up and they don’t even know me.”

Hundreds of poignant and heartfelt comments exist on the crowdfunding site, which exhibits how people are deeply inspired by Williams. Those who are moved enough to donate have also offered up words of encouragement. “Prayers!” And, “Your restoration of health is on its way already!” “You are a beautiful, strong woman; loving thoughts your way.” “Sending extra courage and good wishes for health and prosperity for you and Patrice as you move through this difficult time.” “Your singing voice has brought joy and peace to the hearts of everyone who hears you.” “May this journey be a source of deeper knowing of your beauty and the love that you bring to this world. I offer my prayers for healing. You’ll get through this, love!”

There is a ‘Friends of Kat Williams’ Facebook page you can join and where you can keep up with her progress and read about all the ways you can help.

WLOS Channel 13 Television included Kat’s story in a recent news program, reporting, “Kat Williams, who has the most effervescent personality, is now making a plea for a kidney donor match.” In the piece Williams explains, “I finally got health insurance and went to the doctor and as my test results came back they said, ‘we think there’s an issue.’ Stage-5 kidney disease is the way he put it, and I was pretty shocked when he went on to say I’d have to have a kidney transplant. The first thing that I thought was ‘Oh my gosh! I was a foster kid! I don’t have any relatives. Where am I going to get a match?’”

The main thing she needs right now is for volunteers to step forward in order to find that match. For the donor waiting out there, she’s already giving thanks. “I’m going to share and be a part of that person, for the rest of my life. There’s no greater gift.” As reporter Kimberly King stated in the news piece, “Her focus now is her will to live.”

On Saturday September 10th, “Concert for Kat” will take place at The White Horse Black Mountain 105 Montreat Rd, Black Mountain, NC, a venue where Kat has played nothing but sold out shows. Owner Bob Hinkle and musician friend Jason DeCristofaro are producing a show of shows to honor and raise money for this Blues and Jazz singer icon. A cavalcade of musicians and vocalists in the area will contribute and share their talents. Audiences can look forward to a vibrant, colorful mix of poignant, improvisational, familiar, exhilarating, soul-filled and soul-stirring songs!

Musicians who have collaborated with Kat and supported her who will perform include Jason DeCristofaro on vibes and piano, Jonathan Pearlman on guitar, Paula Hanke on vocals, Daniel Barber piano and vocals, cellist Franklin Keel, Soul Man Ryan Barber, bassist Cameron Austin. I am also honored to be part of the line up! Keep checking the White Horse Black Mountain website for more artists to be added. As of this writing, drummer Rick Dilling, Soul Queen of WNC, Rhoda Weaver and Trumpeter Ben “HoveyCraft” Hovey were all still TBA.

That’s Saturday, September 10th with doors at 7:00pm and concert at 7:30pm. For tickets please visit the White Horse website where they’re on sale now! This is sure to be a sold out show so don’t wait! www.facebook.com/groups/friendsofkat/

Peggy Ratusz

Peggy Ratusz

When my stepson, Chad Holgerson, was diagnosed with MS eight years ago, my husband and I educated ourselves and found a plethora of long standing, and on-going, unique and creative funding campaigns taking place annually, and globally, that support research to find a cure. Many of these events, such as Bike MS and Walk MS, are started by folks around the world who just plain care.

MS is an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged, yet it remains somewhat of a mystery. It is the most common autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system. Ongoing funding has resulted in ever-advancing treatment options, such as medications used to modify the course of the disease as well as manage relapses and symptoms. Yet statistics show an increase in the number of deaths from 12,000 globally in 1990 to 20,000 in 2013. As of 2010, the number of people with MS globally was 2.5 million (approximately 30 per 100,000). In 2014 a Boston University Medical study found that an overall prevalence rate of 1 in every 1000 people in the United States lives with the disease. Medical studies also indicate the disease cuts a person’s life expectancy by approximately ten years. To continue the upward trajectory in garnering funds is vital to finding a cure, as the number of those living with MS continues to grow.

As I write this, Chad has come out of remission and is facing more tests and more medication and more procedures to help fend it off. Money raised helps improve surgical and medical treatment options, for those afflicted nearly always fluctuate between remissions and relapses. What medical personnel specializing in the treatment of MS count on is funding to help find a cure of course, but also to enable their ongoing efforts, through testing new options, to slow down a person’s inevitable paralysis.

Peggy Ratusz is a singer, songwriter and vocal coach.

Peggy Ratusz
Written by Peggy Ratusz