If you’re lucky enough to be alive one thing is certain, you’ve learned how unpredictable life is ... ceaselessly, strikingly, sadly and beautifully.
That’s Bellefonte Area High School graduate and retired police officer Jonathan Green’s story. It's also a story of tragedy and survival, ever since Green was unexpectedly airlifted to a hospital in Maryland where his aorta ruptured. The beauty in it is, he’s alive and is receiving extended care, and, as is so often the case in Centre County, his home community is rallying to help in any way it can. That's where local favorite Velveeta comes in May 18 starting at 5 p.m. in the Tussey Mountain Pavilion by the Pond at what is being called #JStrong: The Concert.
“Jon is a huge Velveeta fan” said event organizer Megan Gilpin. “In fact, he was planning to attend one of their shows on his birthday. He and his wife also went to high school, and continue to stay friends, with the band's drummer, John Harper, and his wife Dara.”
It’s a fundraiser through and through, designed to raise money for Green and his family to help with medical expenses.
“A group of Jon and Melanie's friends and family have been planning the event from the beginning,” Gilpin said. “We've all been working hard to schedule the band, arrange for a location for the concert solicit and organize raffle and silent auction items, and organize friends and family to help us make/provide food.”
Velveeta plays lots of gigs, and they play all over. They play weekly in State College, they travel to Pittsburgh to play, they do weddings and other special events, they play high profile Penn State gigs and they even travel to Florida and other areas out of state, as far as I’ve heard. But, this gig is none of those. It’s a charity gig, and the reason for it is personal.
“This gig hits home,” Harper said. “The benefit is for a lifelong friend of ours who grew up here in Bellefonte, went to college at Penn State and became a police officer in Maryland. (It is) going to have a ton of local friends and family and also a huge turnout of his fellow police officer co-workers.”
When tragedy hits, the victim(s) are obviously suffering, and the way people rally around the victims is a testament to our humanity. However, family, friends and other loved ones are also impacted by tragedies, so this event is also a way of providing leadership for those people.
“In addition to raising money for the family, we're hoping this event is a way for Jon and Melanie's Centre County family and friends to feel as though they are helping the cause,” Gilpin said. “When something like this happens, people often don't know what to do. They want to help support the family, but it can be difficult.”
"It’s a really good feeling because it’s something that’s affecting our family,” said Harper’s daughter Abby. “It’s such a big deal for us that it feels good to help in some way. It feels good to help.”
With as much energy as this great fundraiser has behind it, you’d think plans are already in the works for another one, but Gilpin’s team is focusing on this event for now.
“To be honest, we haven't actually gone beyond the concert,” Gilpin said. “We've been working on it for a few months and we're very wrapped up in it. There's been some talk of making it an annual event, but we need to get through the first one before we can talk about that.”
You know, this kind of thing is the subject of the Walt Whitman’s short but profound poem “Sometimes with One I Love,” in which the speaker reflects on pain of unrequited love and the beauty of what grows in its place. There’s no unrequited love surrounding #JStrong: The Concert, but something that started with immense sorrow has birthed this beautiful event, and there will undoubtedly be more beauty to come for all of those involved, especially Green and his family.
For more information about #JStrong: The Concert, visit jstrongconcert.wordpress.com.
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.