When they were classmates at Upper St. Clair High School, Matt Kennedy asked Ian Arthurs if he’d like to join him in playing some music together.
A couple of decades later, they joined together again for a cause in memory of Matt’s mother, Linda.
The first Jammin’ Toward a Cure with the Ian Arthurs Band took place Oct. 10, three years to the day after Linda’s passing, at 31 Sports Bar & Grille in Collier Township. The benefit raised $1,065 on behalf of the Mario Lemieux Foundation.
“A couple of months ago, Matt mentioned that he wanted to put together this event,” Jeff Kennedy, his brother, recalled. “And I said, ‘I’ll make you a deal. You guys focus on making really good music, and I’ll put everything else together.’”
Matt had played bass for the band that Arthurs fronted, rounded out by drummer Dan Hrvatin and Dr. Mark Baratz on harmonica and vocals. Everyone readily agreed to reunite.
Despite the group’s extended hiatus, the performers blended their core blues repertoire with songs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer and the Allman Brothers Band. Acoustic guitarist Evan Dean also helped the cause by joining in on several tunes.
Between musical sets, Jeff Kennedy told event supporters about his mother, who lost a battle with cancer.
“She was the quintessential hockey mom. She took both Matt and me to every hockey practice, every game,” Jeff said. “She had the loudest voice possible, so everybody knew exactly who she was.”
Linda taught fourth grade at St. Thomas More School in Bethel Park.
“That’s really why we decided to make this all about the Mario Lemieux Foundation tonight,” Jeff said. “It just seemed to be the perfect pairing.”
Along with its dedication to cancer research and patient care, the nonprofit founded by Lemieux puts an emphasis on young people. A notable example is the Lemieux Family Center at the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh, which supports families during the process of transitioning from hospital care to life back at home.
One of Lemieux’s teammates on the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ken Wregget, owns 31 Sports Bar & Grille with his wife, Nicole. Jeff Kennedy acknowledged their graciousness in hosting the event.
“They said, basically, whatever you want to do, we’ll do,” he said of the Wreggets.
The restaurant, named for Ken’s uniform number, serves as the site for numerous benefits for a variety of causes.
“That’s my favorite part of the job,” Nicole said as she helped make sure everyone was taken care of during Jammin’ Toward a Cure.
The Kennedy brothers plan to continue the event each October.
“We’re only going to get better,” Jeff said.