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Mardi Gras Benefit to the Tom Sustic Fund

Big thanks, all the way around, wide and deep, for all who supported the Mardi Gras Party at Hotel Vermont on 2/13/18 in Burlington.

There were 2 general storylines to the night, in addition the great setting, occasion, music, food, drinks, and legacy and new friends. First was the personal story about Tom Sustic’s journey and how that is expressed through the fund named for him. The other story, and the more central one to the occasion, is the public strategy to make a difference by supporting families who have a child with a life-altering/threatening condition, thrust into circumstances no one has the chance to, or should have to be, prepared to handle on their own.

Specific thanks to John Abair, Tim Weaver and the entire crew at Hotel Vermont…… Tim, Margo Caulfield, Chris and Elizabeth Campbell, Ruth Dennis and Deborah Travis for arriving early and/or staying late to put up/take down decorations….. Ceile Kronick and Oliver Scanlon for arriving early, staying late, and making everyone sound great……. Pam McCarthy, Dr. Fred Holmes, Dr. Alan Homans, and Dr. Brad Freisen for speaking, both about Tom specifically and the fund generally….. the Alchemist and the UVM Medical Center for financial contributions….. everyone who ate, danced, listened, visited, and bought tickets, including those who couldn’t attend and bought tickets anyway as a contribution.

Big thanks to all the musicians who played: Ponyhustle, Yankee Chank and guest players Michael Ball, Alexander Allison and Janice Russotti. It was noted that for musicians who play Cajun, Zydeco, Swamp, or other music near and dear to Louisiana, giving up the night of Mardi Gras for a benefit is like an Irish band giving up St. Patrick’s Day gigs.

Ponyhustle is a great honkytonk band who got transitioned to their regular Tuesday night gig at Radio Bean at 10pm, after we were finished with festivities in the Juniper Room. The entire band is fantastic, but we shouted out 3 who have contributed to Young Tradition Vermont activities: John Abair, guitar player and singer, who’s enthusiasm and support made the Hotel Vermont partnership happen ….. we would not be there for a 2nd year without his efforts; Eric George, guitar player, singer, instigator, 2014 winner of the Young Tradition contest, frequent collaborator on projects like school partnerships and the Baird 5 music sessions; and Collin Cope, boss harmonica player and singer, also a contributor to the Baird 5 music sessions and YTV representative at events like the New England Exposition in West Springfield, MA.

Appreciation to several folks who spoke to both of the story threads for the night: Pam McCarthy, Executive Director of the Vermont Family Network, which hosts the distribution of the Tom Sustic Fund….. the first phone call Mark made when Tom was diagnosed, even before his own family, was to that organization….. they support and help thousands of families on a daily basis, ensuring that family choice and decision making is at the center of what is done for and to them ….. the Fund is managed effectively and efficiently with deep care, respect and knowledge about families in tough circumstances; Dr. Fred Holmes, retired pediatrician, family friend and neighbor, one of the first to raise the alarm about the opiate crisis in Vermont, featured in the film ‘A Hungry Heart’, who gave up his summer vacation to camp out at Tom’s house during final five days of life; Dr. Alan Homans, pediatric oncologist at the UVM Medical Center, Tom’s specialty care physician, someone who knows firsthand about more triumphs and tragedies than you could see in 100 Olympic Games; and Dr. Brad Friesen, pediatrician, father of two, husband to Beth who still works at the Children’s Specialty Clinic, pediatric resident who started his residency almost the same day Tom was diagnosed, and finished almost the same day that he died.  Dr. Lewis First was out of town and couldn’t come, but sent this message: ‘I can’t think of a better way for our community to be ‘First with Kids’ than to help support the Tom Sustic Fund through events that celebrate the youth in our community, and the ones held by organizations such as Young Tradition Vermont.’

Bob Naess, Cannon Labrie, Jim Burns and June Drucker from Yankee Chank, no longer Vermont’s only Cajun band…… a great thing to be able to say, because it means there is more Cajun music being played…… but still Vermont’s ‘senior’ Cajun band. Joined by guest fiddlers Alexander Allison (charter member of the Young Tradition Touring Group, which is going to Scotland in April this year) who somehow got bit by the Cajun bug, one of those rarest of southern comforts that appears this far north), and Michael Ball, who drove the 4 hours down and back from Ottawa just to play some tunes and enjoy the fun.

Already hearing about ‘next year’….. we’ll keep you posted on that! The date for March Gras in 2019 is Tuesday March 5th.

Thanks Cheryl Dorschner for the photo collage…….