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UCF fraternity hosts St. Patrick's Day concert to benefit ALS Association

By Tim Freed
On March 21, 2012

A UCF fraternity blended country music with St. Paddys Day on Saturday, March 17, in order to raise awareness of a rare and deadly disease.

Phi Delta Theta, one of UCFs 18 Interfraternity Council fraternities, hosted the first ever St. Pattys Music Fest to Defeat ALS this weekend at UCFs Memory Mall in an effort to support the cause of fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that causes muscle weakness, disability and eventually death.

The event featured a full day of popular country music artists, including former UCF student Johnny Bulford, whose track A Woman Like You has climbed into the top 40 on the country music charts; Janell Wheeler, who placed in the top 24 on Season 9 of American Idol; and Casey Weston, who was one of the top eight contestants on NBCs The Voice.

With these artists coming to perform on a professional stage equipped with lighting and walls of speakers, Memory Mall was sectioned off into a live country music experience, attracting dozens of people who came to sit back in lawn chairs, watch live music and support a good cause.

Costing only $10 a person for a day of country music, the festival donated all profits to the ALS Association, a non-profit group that promotes global research on finding a cure and provides assistance for people with ALS.

Danny Mitchell, a UCF sophomore majoring in business economics and the Phi Delta Theta philanthropy chair, was the main organizer behind the gathering and felt that putting the event together was a substantial first step for Phi Delta Theta in bringing awareness of ALS to UCF.

We were able to create something that we think that were gonna be able to bring people to and it should be a great day, so its turned out great so far, Mitchell said the day before the event. This is our first attempt at a big philanthropy. Were basically throwing up a Hail Mary on the first play.

More commonly known as Lou Gehrigs disease, after the late Yankees baseball player who was diagnosed with it, ALS is the designated national philanthropy of Phi Delta Theta, due to Gehrigs own affiliation with the fraternity when he was alive.

With this in mind, Mitchell came to the chapter about a year ago and brought about the idea of a music festival to support the cause.

We wanted to make strides for the cause through our philanthropy, Mitchell said. We feel that first and foremost, the most important thing for this particular cause is raising awareness, because there is no known cause or cure of the disease.

As opening acts Ryan Daniel and Natalie Nicole Green got the event rolling and warmed up the audience for a long day of music ahead, attendees took part in raffles and browsed through vendor tents filled with wares. Inflatables and games were also made available for children attending.

After a well-received set by Weston, Wheeler took the stage. An Orlando native herself, Wheeler was given a warm welcome as she began her set. Playing songs such as Try and Last Honest Man, Wheeler gave it right back to the audience with some heartfelt country music.

After her set, Wheeler expressed how grateful she was to be involved in an event that supported such a noble cause.

To be honest, I didnt know very much about it. I had no idea how many people it affected. It really is more common than you would expect and it really freaked me out once I started to really research it once I found out that I was gonna be performing here, she said. Its so great that they picked such a worthy cause. There are so many different things that need support, but Ive never heard of this and Im so happy they chose this route to go down.

As the sun went down, Bulford performed the last set of the night. Playing songs such as Flashlight, A Woman Like You and Dont Make Me Love You, Bulford intended on finishing up the festival on a high note.

Once he finished his set and the festival came to a close, a Stratocaster electric guitar signed by all the acts that played was raffled off to a lucky Phi Delta Theta brother.

As the audience members filed out of the gated festival area at Memory Mall, the response was clearly positive.

I think it was awesome; we didnt know what to expect really, said Judith Martin, a local Orlando resident who knows Bulford personally. I heard one announcement on the radio about the show, and we heard all the artists that were coming. Of course, since were friends with Johnny, we had to come see him because havent seen him in about a year, but all the other acts were really outstanding.

With a decent turnout for the first year of the music festival, Mitchell hopes to continue this for years to come and stir up more awareness of ALS.

Not too many people know about ALS, so we feel like its so undersold that we have an obligation to make strides for it, Mitchell said. We really want to do big things for it year after year and have the means to do so for ALS.

Mitchell said that Phi Delta Theta plans on making next years music festival even better, with even more artists and activities.

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