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Guitar legend will be rockin’ the KP Civic Center

The concert is scheduled from 2 to 10 p.m. March 31 at the Key Peninsula Civic Center, 17020 S. Vaughn Road KPN in Vaughn. Admission is $20. The event will feature the Jerry Miller Band, Cody Rentas Band, Cloud Chowder and Sky Diamonds. For ticket information, call 253-857-7031 or visit www.handicappedchallenge.org.

Four bands will play at the KP civic center March 31.Lee Giles III/Staff photographer

Four bands will play at the KP civic center March 31.

Susan Schell; of the Gateway

Anyone that has ever wanted to see a true guitar legend play live will have the chance on March 31 at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. The Jerry Miller Band will play alongside three other bands at the Handicapped Challenge Fundraiser and Blues Fest. The event will help fund three-day retreats for handicapped individuals and their families.
For the $20 admission, guests will be treated to eight hours of entertainment with a mix of musicians ranging from veterans to relative newcomers.
Miller has graced the stage with  some of history’s greatest strummers. He plays the guitar, “acoustic, electric, upside down and backwards,” he said. Miller can rattle off a list of eye-popping “buddies” like he’s describing what he ate for lunch.
“Kris Kristofferson, he’s just a friend of mine,” he said. “We still fart around together. I’ve played with Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant. Plant recorded two of my tunes. I played the Monterey Pop when Jimi burned up his guitar.”
The upcoming concert lineup will include the three-man band, Cloud Chowder, and rising stars Cody Rentas, who played the Handicapped Challenge last year.
“The support was tremendous,” said Rentas, the band’s namesake. “Everybody enjoyed themselves and were in a good mood.” The event’s newest band, Sky Diamonds, knows all about Miller, his accomplishments and his former band, Moby Grape. Guitarist Michael Elston holds his hands to his head in a mock “mind blowing” motion. When trying to describe what it would be like to play in the same building as Miller, he said, “Words cannot express it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Miller has become quite the veteran of fundraisers for charitable causes himself.
“I’ve played in this building,” he said, looking around the civic center gymnasium. “It’s great to play for people that need a little help and assistance. I’ve played a few cancer benefits. There’s way too much of all that stuff. We try to help when we can. It’s always good to do that.”
Darrell Eby, founder and director of the Handicapped Challenge, said his 30-year old son, Jeremy, began life as a normal child. When he was three, he became dehydrated and did not receive IV therapy soon enough. As a result, he suffered severe brain trauma. The handicapped challenge is Eby’s way of reaching out to the families and their children.
“The parents are always forgotten,” he said. “The divorce rate with parents of challenged children is 78 percent.”
John Robinson, director of marketing for the Handicapped Challenge, said the organization is looking to purchase or build a facility in the area for a retreat. It will offer the families a place to take a break and “recharge their batteries,” Johnson said. “For the parents it’s a 24/7 job to take care of these kids. We’ll have a hot tub, a pool and water therapy. For three days and two nights the parents can go dining and dancing and get massage therapy. And it won’t cost them a thing.” Robinson said he worked extensively as a volunteer with the Special Olympics in southern California.  “I ran into a lot of the parents of these children,” he said. “Nobody’s addressing the needs of the parents and the caregivers.”
During that time he gained a lot of knowledge of handicapped children, he said. “Every day I think I’m having a bad day I think of the 29-year-old blind kid with a severe case of down syndrome. He was doing the long jump and smiling from ear to ear.”

Reach Lifestyles Coordinator and reporter Susan Schell at 253-853-9240 or by e-mail at susan.schell@gateline.com.

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