COLLEGEVILLE — If you've been loyally rocking to the classic, charitable sounds of You, Me & Reenie at Davinci's Restaurant & Pub these many years you may have feared that the coronavirus would be lowering the curtain on the fun this year.
Happily, that's not the case.
The show will go on, albeit with some necessary modifications, of course.
The Sixth Annual "2020-Friendly" You, Me, & Reenie Concert Benefiting Variety, the Children's Charity will offer the best of both worlds, going live and virtual, beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 26, noted longtime organizer Maureen Stanko.
“Due to COVID-19 obviously we can’t have a big huge crowd. So what is going to happen is that the Variety staff will come to Davinci’s and have a table set up just as they always did. A $10 donation nets a free drink ticket, two for $20. So even in the midst of this whole crisis Davinci’s is willing to donate those drinks, which is spectacular.”
In lieu of the rotating cast of musicians as in years past, this year’s band will feature just a four-piece band: Maureen "Reenie" Stanko on guitar, vocals, harmonica; Reenie's big brother, Tom Moran on lead guitar; Michael Santiago on vocals and keyboards; Adam Chantry (who run's Methacton's Mallon Planetarium) on drums and vocals.
“It’s just four out of the five members of my band and rather than having a rotating cast of musicians we want to be tasteful about it and smart, so we’ll be socially distant on the stage. This event will be livestreamed on Facebook Live, on the You, Me & Reenie Facebook page so that people can watch from the comfort of their home and also from different parts of Davinci’s. The barroom where we normally play can only have a limited capacity and no one can sit at the bar right now either. So people can still come to Davinci’s but it will be a first come, first served situation. If people want to come out and have dinner they’re not only supporting Variety Club, they’re also supporting the local business of Davinci’s.”
Stanko, a reading specialist at Woodland Elementary School in the Methacton School District and the mother of 18-year-old Nicholas, who has benefited from Variety’s services for years, also has an arrangement with Davinci’s that allows her to invite musicians to come and play on weeknights during August to help raise funds for Variety.
"I continue to be absolutely in awe that so many of my Methacton colleagues and musician friends have come forward to share their time and talent to help make a difference for the special needs population by performing at this event,” she said. “I have invited approximately 80 tremendously-talented people to help the cause, and, as in previous years, it seems as if whoever is meant to play is who ends up being available, willing and able. When somebody who has played in the past is unavailable, it makes room for new talent. I also have a few close friends who are going through personal struggles this year who are still going out of their way to help make this happen, and for this, I feel especially grateful and blessed."
This year's show will feature many returnees, as well as many new faces.
In the "returnee" department, both the Sin Bothers and Party Hat bands are coming back to perform for their second consecutive year.
"When I asked them if they could play, both bands responded with no hesitation that they would love to help,” Stanko said. “These guys are not just gifted musicians, but amazing people who have also evolved into great friends.
"Returning from (the second year) is my cousin, Theresa, and her husband, Jack McTamney, with their duo, 2Late 4Breakfast. They will be kicking off the event at 2:00 P.M. with some of the most tremendous vocal harmonies you will ever hear, and I am so excited to be able to watch them perform songs like 'Ramblin Man' and 'Baba O'Reilly.' They are well-worth coming early to hear.”
In the "new talent" department, Tina Belles, lead singer of Blonde, James Blonde, will be belting out some Heart songs for the event. Belles is also in a local 80's rock band known as Nat Attack with You, Me, & Reenie's keyboard player, Michael Santiago.
"Tina was an acquaintance of mine back in December when I saw her sing with Nat Attack, and her ability to nail the vocals on 'Barracuda' absolutely blew me away,” Stanko said. “Since that time, the two of us ended joining forces to make some pretty awesome music and have also forged a close bond. I truly consider it a privilege to be sharing the stage as what she calls the 'Nancy Wilson to her Ann Wilson' on Heart songs such as, 'Crazy on You' and 'Straight on.' I am also very excited for the band to be performing the Kansas' rock anthem 'Carry on My Wayward Son' with her on lead vocals. The girl is a powerhouse!"
Also on the bill is a special guest drummer, 30-year-old former "Variety kid," Nickie D'Annunzio, who will be performing in order to "give back" to a place that had made a tremendous difference for him in his youth.
Nickie's mother, Marybelle D'Annunzio noted, "Nickie has two disabilities, cerebral palsy, and Williams Syndrome. He participated in Variety's Day Camp and Overnight Camp, he was part of their after-school care, and he received water therapy in their indoor pool. MARC, where he had received Early Intervention services, held their graduation ceremony right on Variety's campus."
Stanko pointed out that her son Nicholas, who has autism, continues to benefit from the Saturday Arts Program at Variety.
“This summer, he is also excited to be enjoying a couple of weeks of their Day Camp run by Angela Hall. This is a recreational program where Nicholas gets to make choices throughout the course of his day as to which activities he participates in. Doing this is not only helping to foster his independence, it is truly empowering for him."
Variety's new CEO, Dominique Bernardo, added: “Variety is so appreciative of all community support, but what makes this event extra special is that it is run by a Variety parent so it is like family. As a small nonprofit, we are dependent on our fundraising to make so many of our high quality programs happen. By supporting this event, folks are supporting many families with children with disabilities.”
Proceeds from Sunday’s event support Variety as an organization in general and also help support the continued growth of the unique workforce development program called VarietyWorks.
“I saw a blurb from CHOP on Action News a few years ago stating that there is currently an influx of 20,000 adolescents with autism in Pennsylvania alone that there is absolutely no programming for once they graduate,” Stanko said. “My son, Nicholas, just turned 17, and I know that the next four years are going to fly. Figuring out what to do with these kids after high school is a tremendous source of anxiety for many parents of the special needs population, including us."
An example of a community involvement in the award-winning VarietyWorks is the Coffee Cart at the Montgomery County Human Services building, which operates from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. This service enables individuals who aren’t quite ready to pursue employment to build upon the skills that they still need some improvement on. In this case, job skills focused upon are making and selling coffee, operating a point of sale system, tracking inventory, collaborating with co-workers, following directions from a supervisor, and engaging in social interactions with customers. According to Variety employee, Tyler Kammerlee, “The cart helps individuals build confidence while getting to practice these skills in a community setting. It is not simulated; it is actual real job experience, which the special needs population currently does not get much of, and individualized goals are created for each employee so he/she can focus on specific areas of need.”
Coinciding with the You, Me & Reenie concert will be a raffle, Stanko noted.
“We have many cool raffle items this year, including tickets to Get the Led Out! I am also very excited to say that thanks to the generosity of Davinci's owner, Vince Giancaterino and my good friend, Tony Scherr of Scherr Law Group, funding has been provided for T-shirts memorializing this event for the first time. Getting T-shirts made has been a bucket list item for me for the last two years, and another Variety parent, Tom Laconis, offered to help,” Stanko added. “I met Tom at last year's event when he was doing photography for Party Hat and learned that his daughter, Haley, now 20 years old, has been participating in Variety's Summer Camps for years. The really cool thing about these shirts is that the names of every single act and performer for this year's event is being immortalized in print on the back of them. I had 32 of them sold before I even had anyone to print them."
Sunday’s event is sure to be as memorable as any previous You, Me & Reenie concert, Stanko said.
“There will be a lot of positive energy, which I think we really need in this world right now.”
Davinci’s doors at 217 E. Main St. will open at 4 p.m. Sunday.