Our 11/11/11 Event, One Year Later

Wounded Warrior Benefit 11-11-11Last year on Friday, November 11, 2011 we held a Wounded Warrior Benefit Concert at at Champion’s Sports Bar in Highspire, PA. Absolutely everyone involved was pleasant, upbeat, and helpful and the show could not have gone smoother. When my wife Karyn and I tallied up the all the donations including the door cover, raffle, cash contributions, CD sales by participating musicians, and business and online monetary donations we found that this single event had brought in $1,103. Well, we instantly shook the sofa to scrape up an additional eight bucks to bring that total to $1,111, which fits perfectly with the unique date of this event. We did have some expenses which worked out to be about 27% of this gross amount, still leaving a healthy amount to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project through the Sound Off for Vets charity. Beyond this, about 6 bags of clothes were donated for the YWCA Homeless Vets Clothing Drive.

This event could not have been a success without the incredible time and effort of so many people, who I’d like to once again recognize here. First and foremost, thank you to all the Veterans past and present who do more for us as American citizens than any other group.

Thanks to the musical artists who all put on incredible and entertaining performances:

Mycenea Worley
The Group “Meeka” – Romeeka Gayhart, Terry Gayhart, Drew Washington, Wyatt Latimer, and Arte Munoz
Carmen Magro’s Band – Carmen Magro, Chuck Scarpello, Mark Burkert, Rob DiSimone, Dave Murphy, and Steve Sauer
Hot Wing Jones – Steve Montressor, Andy Shemeta, Anthony Pepoli, and Corey Woodcock – I ‘d like to add a special thanks to the guys in Hot Wing Jones, who were the first to arrive, the last to leave, and donated equipment for all the artists to use.

Also, thanks to DJ Kai who provided incredible video during the musical performances as well as entertainment between sets.

Thank you to those who offered support for the event:

Chris Hicks, sound man from Voyager Music
Tim Dyer, videographer who shot about 5 hours of footage and enlisted our event in the international One Day on Earth program so we will be seen all over the world

Thank you to all the people and businesses that donated merchandise, gift certificates, advertising, and/or money to the cause:

Champions Sports Bar
United Water
Fredricksburg Eagle Hotel
Antique Auto Museum
Civil War Museum
Farmer’s Hope Inn
Hollywood Casino
The Porch Restaurant
Adventure Sports
LB Smith Ford-Lincoln
Ultimate Lube and Wash
Classic Rock Review
Susquehanna Entertainment
Jim Hammond
Deborah Delgado
Kathi Guliano

Last but not least, thank you to everyone who showed up last night, added to the celebratory atmosphere, and were very generous in donating to our cause.

Ric Albano, Organizer, Sound Off for Veteran’s Day

The Story of ‘Vieux Carre’

Vieux Carre, 'The French Quarter'With Hurricane Isaac on a trajectory to New Orleans this week, we’d thought it was a good time to reflect on the story of the song “Vieux Carre” which was influenced by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The song was also influenced by a family vacation that we took to the Crescent City just months before that tragedy, and the extraordinary differences between good times and bad.

That November, 2004 trip was our first to New Orleans. We had a planned vacation to Orlando during Thanksgiving week but decided to start off in New Orleans so my son and I could catch our beloved Broncos who were playing the Saints that week. Naturally, one of the first attractions we wanted to see was the famous “French Quarter” and I remember driving down Interstate 10 and seeing an exit for “Vieux Carre”. My wife, who speaks and reads French pointed out that is where we wanted to go as Vieux Carre is the original French title of “old square” for the neighborhood. Well, anyway we enjoyed our trip, had lots of fun, and the Broncos handily defeated the Saints.

About nine months later Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and, like most people, I was horrified by the images of people trapped for days in the flooded city in the aftermath. One image in particular that chilled me to the bone was footage of refugees who had climbed onto the elevated interstate to get above the flood waters and were trapped in the sweltering heat under that same large green exit sign that read “Vieux Carre”. This, coupled with the horror stories of conditions inside the Superdome (a major evacuation center and the place where we saw the football game in 2004) moved me to write a song about the tragedy.

I originally wrote the song on piano in early 2006, while I was writing a lot of material for Imaginary Lines, but I never really intended to use the song for that project. Three years later, I introduced the song to my band Animal Society, and we worked out a new arrangement. It was recorded for our debut album in 2010, with the mix greatly inspired by the 1980s sound of the band Zebra, who ironically originated in New Orleans.

Listen to the Song:

Ric Albano

The Mystery of the Brain

Diane and her daughter, 2007On September 25, 2007, my sister Diane had surgery that changed her life, The surgery to remove a tumor from her optic nerve went terribly wrong, Diane was left with severe brain damage to the left frontal lobe. For months, the doctores told us she wasn’t going to wake up and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state. No one could offer any hope for her future except to suggest that we prepare for the worst. Once Diane defied all of the predictions of her doctors and not only woke up from the coma, she was alert and aware of her surroundings. she was blind in her left eye and could not move her right side, but her left arm and leg were strong. Her speech was profoundly impaired, but she did manage to communicate with single words and gestures. While she was hardly her robust former self, my sister was still in that severely damaged body and for the first time, we had hope for her future. maybe the same medical profession that “broke” her could offer some way for her to regain at least a protion of what she lost. At first, she made steady progress with traditional speech and physical therapy. She was working on regaining some independence and we actually have some video of her getting up on her own two feet and walking with a lot of help from her therapists. But after she suffered some setbacks due to seizures and bouts with pneumonia, her progress palateued and her insurance stopped allowing her to have therapy. Since she wasn’t progressing quickly enough, she was not eligible for any therapy at all. I never realized that there was no such thing as gradual progression or therapy at your own pace in the world of medical coverage – both private insurance and medicaid – Diane had both and neither could help her get what she needed. Still we hoped that there was someone out there with a therapy or treatment that may help improve the quality of her life. Surely someone must be doing research into brain functions and nerve regeneration or re-purposing?

I started searching for places that may offer specialized therapy for someone with Diane’s severe level of brain damage. Unfortunately, I found many organizations who lobby for funding and several doing research but only a few offering actual treatment and none offering anything innovative for someone with Diane’s severe problems. I had always thought that the problem would be funding the treament Diane needed, but now I realized that the treatment may not exist. the reasons for this are not entirely clear, we can treat cancer with amazing success now, AIDS is no longer the certain death sentence it once was but we still haven’t unlocked the mysteries of the human brain. There have been studies showing that despite the long help belief that brain cells do not regenerate, this may not be true and in fact sometimes functions done by that lost cell can be taken over by other cells. So many possibilities, but so little that we can actually do to help Diane regain her ability to talk, walk and do anything independently. so, with treatment limited to things that will just keep her alive, Diane sits in a nursing home that provides her with basic care but that can’t offer her any treatment or therapy that might improve her future. My question to all of these lobbying groups is where does all the money you successfully lobby go? Where is the data from the research you have funded? How much of the funds have actually gone for research and how much of it has gone to fund additional lobbying?

We all realize at this point that there is no miracle cure for Diane’s condition. However, it is frustrating that even with good insurance and a specialized care account that will provide anything she needs that insurance can’t cover that her treatment options are so limited. At this point, we are willing to send her anywhere if there is hope for some improvement for her. Our dream is that one day she will be able to spend days with her family and friends at the beach or even just sit around the kitchen table with us at family gatherings. We would like her to have all the support and therapy she needs to stay as healthy and active as she possibly can. With all of the amazing technilogy we have in this modern enlightened word we live in , we still don’t fully understand what makes our bodies function the way they do.

Dollars for Diane

Karyn Albano