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Midwest Music Foundation annual fundraiser to focus this year’s efforts on COVID relief

For over a decade, Midwest Music Foundation has been raising money with their annual benefit concert, Apocalypse Meow, to provide musicians with preventative healthcare and help with medical crises.

This year, with the need greater than ever, the fundraiser will be hosted online on Saturday, Nov. 7, in order to continue the tradition while keeping everyone safe.

The annual benefit concert was first started to raise money to support Abigail Henderson, MMF’s founder and member of the band The Gaslights, when she was diagnosed with Stage III inflammatory breast cancer and her insurance wasn’t going to pay for her treatment.

“The Midwest Music Foundation was created out of her desire to give back to the community that basically saved her life, and then for us to have a safety net, for if someone is sick we don’t have to just scramble around and throw a fundraiser, we have the money to try and help,” Sondra Freeman, director of promotions and artist relations, said.

In a normal year, Abby's Fund for Musicians’ Health Care provides preventive care clinics that offer services such as mammograms and flu shots, but the pandemic has upended their ability to hold these large events. Instead, the fund is now offering microgrants directly to musicians financially impacted by COVID-19.

Since the pandemic sent unemployment soaring in the spring, they've has been able to provide nearly $90,000 in microgrants, Rhonda Lyne, executive director of MMF, said.

When COVID-19 shut everything down, they considered canceling the event, but eventually decided against it.

“As with everything, we discussed and we contemplated canceling it altogether, Freeman said. "But ultimately we decided that with the nature of what's COVID that we could have a lot of people in need very soon of Abby’s Fund. So we feel like it's important still to put as much fundraising in it as we can."

In the light of everything that's happened this year, Freeman said Apocalypse Meow 13 will be branded accordingly.

"Of course that's not lost on us, that this is Apocalypse Meow 13, and we're having this most unlucky year," Freeman said.

It's not all doom and gloom though. Lyne, who has been helping organize Apocalypse Meow since it began in 2008, said the online format might offer the opportunity to reach more people.

“I think in some way the online auction might actually be an advantage, it’ll go out to more people than would just come to the event, but it’s definitely a learning curve doing things totally different than we’re used to, especially after so many years,” Lyne said.

The online auction will run Nov. 1 to Nov. 28.

Steve Gardels, who will be managing the video production for Apocalypse Meow 13, has continued to give back to the organization since Abby’s Fund came to his aid six years ago.

Gardels works at the Kansas City Art Institute during the day and moonlights as a bassist and drummer. However, when a serious accident put Gardels in the ICU, the financial consequences were severe, even though he had insurance.

“I was just like, man I'm fortunate enough to have the good insurance, and [MMF] still showed up,” he said.

Though MMF can’t foot the bill for the entire cost of unexpected medical expenses, Gardels said the microgrants are able to help people pay their rent or keep their lights on. In the middle of a global healthcare crisis, he said the foundation and Apocalypse Meow are more important than ever.

“I feel like the Midwest Music Foundation has been preparing, maybe not for something at this scale, but it’s just like there are going to be a bunch of people who need help right now,” Gardels said.

Though this year’s Apocalypse Meow won’t have a live audience, performances will be streamed from recordBar in Kansas City.

The event is free to access, but donations are encouraged. The online stream will have both live and prerecorded performances, featuring the following artists: Alejandro Escovedo, Jon Dee Graham, Roman Numerals, Kadesh Flow, Brett Anderson of Ha Ha Tonka, and Nathan Corsi Band.

Apocalypse Meow can be viewed live on Midwest Music Foundation Facebook, MMF's YouTube, 90.9 The Bridge Facebook or recordBar Facebook.

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