After enduring a brief delay due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 17th annual Unity Music Festival to benefit the the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund will fire up the fall concert season with Casi Joy of the music performance television show “The Voice” set to hit the stage at the Sheboygan Lutheran Fine Arts Center in Sheboygan on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Belgium resident Jon Bolker assumed the reins of the Unity Music Festival in 2000 from UMF founder and organizer Mary Ann Waldbauer, who founded the cancer care fundraiser in 2005 and retired from the role following the 2019 event.
“We sold out the Weill Center with BritBeat for the last Unity Music Festival that was held on March 7, 2020, just a few days before COVID-19 really hit and everything shut down,” Bolker said. “We were able to raise $30,000 for the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund during last year’s show, which was awesome and a great way to start my run as the organizer of the show.”
Despite the shutdown of virtually all concerts and shows for the span of over a year, Bolker’s dedication to the Unity Musical Festival and the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund never wavered.
“There were no shows for well over a year after COVID hit,” Bolker said. “We didn’t attempt to schedule another Unity Music Festival in the spring due to COVID, but when the vaccine appeared and concerts started again, I got back to the task of making the Unity Musical Festival happen again this year. I always intended to bring it back. There was never any question about that.”
While previous Unity Music Festivals under Waldbauer’s had featured a wide array of mainly local musical performers, this year’s show, the show on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. at the Sheboygan Lutheran Fine Arts Center will feature national recording and touring artist Casi Joy, who initially rose to fame as a finalist on season 12 of “The Voice” television show.
“Casi Joy is really an amazing singer and performer that many people will recall from her time on ‘The Voice,’” Bolker said. “Her voice is amazing. She performs a mixture of great original songs and incredible covers in the country and pop genre. There will be a little bit of the old and new for the audience enjoy.”
Bolker, who founded and operates Shop Your Bank and Medical Parts International, said a major driving force behind his interest in taking over the Unity Music Festival is his close, personal connection to the devastating impact of cancer.
“I watched both my mother and sister battle cancer most of my childhood,” Bolker said. “My mom passed when she was only 43, I was only 8. My sister too battled the disease very early on in her life, eventually passing at 35. This cause is something that really hits home for me.
“The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund [SCCCF.org] is a very worthwhile organization that does so much good for the people in the community battling cancer and blood related illnesses,” he said. “I just knew when I first went to Mary Ann’s last Unity Music Festival show as organizer in 2019 that I must not let this special event end. Knowing that the money raised through this event directly goes to families and people battling this disease made it even more meaningful to me.”
The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions by the public are fully tax-deductible.
Established in 2000, The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund is the brainchild of local medical oncologist, H. Marshall Matthews, who recognized the need to help cancer patients through their cancer journey.
The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund since it was founded has been responsible for assisting Sheboygan area residents struggling with cancer to the tune of 1.5 million dollars.
Through the efforts of Mary Ann Waldbauer during the first 15 years and Bolker in 2020, the Unity Music Festival has been responsible for raising close to half a million dollars that has directly benefited the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund.
“SCCCF is just awesome,” Bolker said. “In addition to providing survivors some financial support, through the Survive, Thrive and Be Fit program the fund provides survivors support by connecting them with other survivors and provides them with free healthy lifestyle activities.”
In addition, to the Casi Joy concert on Oct. 2, Bolker has also enlisted BritBeat, billed as America’s premier tribute to the Beatles, to return for another Unity Music Festival engagement.
The BritBeat concert is set to take place on Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Stefanie H. Weill Center “Tickets for both the Casi Joy and BritBeat Unity Musical Festival concerts are now on sale,” Bolker said. For Casi Joy tickets, go to UnityMusicFestival.org or call 1-888-WE ROCK U (1-888-937-6258).
For BritBeat tickets, go to UnityMusicFestival.org or call 1-833-HEY JUDE (1-833-439-5833)