Music fest in Bro. Rice grad’s memory raises funds for cancer fight
BY JESSIE MOLLOY Correspondent August 10, 2014 3:44PM
Former "American Idol" contestant Chris Medina performs Saturday night at WeishFest in Crestwood. | Jessie Molloy/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 12, 2014 6:25AM
Andrew Weishar lost his three-year battle against colorectal cancer at age 21 in October 2012.
It was obvious Saturday night that his spirit and memories of him were living on in others, as hundreds of people crowded into Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood for the second annual WeishFest.
After Weishar died, members of his family, led by his younger brother Danny, banded together to create the Andrew Weishar Foundation, a nonprofit that helps ease the financial burden on young cancer patients and their families.
“We received a lot of support when Andrew was sick,” Danny, now 21, said. “He got so many cards and gifts of support, he was overwhelmed by it. A few days before he died, he asked us to pay forward the kindness he received. So that’s what the foundation is for.”
WeishFest (pronounced WISH-fest) is an all-day music festival that serves as the foundation’s one fundraiser for the year.
Since the foundation is 100 percent nonprofit, all the work is done by volunteers — more than 200 of them — including family members, friends from the community, and students from local high schools, including Brother Rice, where Andrew played football and basketball.
The event this year also received donations and support from a number of local businesses and WCCQ (98.3-FM) country radio, Goose Island Beer and the White Sox. The Weishars also expressed thanks to the Windy City ThunderBolts and village of Crestwood for helping organize everything.
Tickets for the festival, which included five bands, raffles and games in the afternoon, cost between $25 and $115.
Last year, the concert event raised more than $130,000, which the foundation used to help 16 families, several of whom Danny introduced to the crowd before the final act of the night.
Early in the afternoon, Andrew and Danny’s father, Don Weishar, said they were on track to exceed last year’s total and that they were all “excited to be able to help more people.”
“Last year we were just starting out and the show was very local,” Don said. “This year we got a few bigger names, which is great because the more people we bring in the better we’ll do as a fundraiser.”
This year’s show featured performances by Sean and Charlie, C2 and the Brothers Reed, local “American Idol” star Chris Medina, Infinity, and country star Rodney Atkins.
“We approached Atkins through his agent,” Don Weishar said. “We explained our cause and he thought it was worthy of participating.”
Atkins’ set drew a considerable crowd and created a lot of excitement from the WeishFest organizers. After the show, Atkins showed his support for the organization, Tweeting “Thanks to Dan and the whole Weishar family for letting me be a part of #Weishfest @Weish4Ever,” along with a picture of himself and Danny.
Atkins was not alone in his enthusiasm for the cause.
“Everybody here has been very welcoming of us,” said Cameron Clark, the lead singer of C2 and the Brothers Reed, who came up from Kentucky for the event at the urging of keyboard player James Weishar. “It’s a great cause, and we’re glad to be a part of it.”
Even through all the excitement of the concert, the crowd did not seem to forget the reason they were there. With several emotional chants of “Andrew” and “pay it forward” going up in the crowd during and after Atkins’ set, it was obvious the final request of Andrew Weishar was prominent in everyone’s minds.
For information on the Andrew Weishar Foundation and Weishfest, or to donate, visit weish4ever.org.