A Spectacular Evening of Hope at the Release the Butterfly Benefit Concert

It was a magical evening in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, on September 27th, as singers and dancers took the stage at the Johnsonburg Area High School for “performances of hope,” and a community united for the Release the Butterfly benefit concert. The concert was hosted by FIRST members and self-advocates, Tracie and Bailey Pretak. A special friend of the Pretaks and of FIRST, Hunter Steinitz, affected with harlequin ichthyosis (HI), participated in a unique “talk show” interview, along with Bailey. The interview focused on “living with ichthyosis,” and was conducted by former student of Tracie Pretak and recent journalism graduate, Sara Vallone.

“Sara was so great at leading the conversation about ichthyosis. The questions and answers were amazing! The audience definitely learned a lot, and they were noticeably moved. They were changed forever because of the presentation,” said Tracie.

There were over 60 people in attendance at the concert, raising $1,800 for FIRST. “Not bad at all for a "’village in the middle of nowhere!’” said Tracie. FIRST member Evan Melton affected with congenital ichthyosis, traveled from over an hour away to attend the event. “It's moments like that (noticing the Meltons in the audience) that remind us why it is so important for us to keep doing this,” added Tracie.

Performances included:

Bailey Pretak (dancer, vocalist); Hunter Steinitz (vocalist); Tracie Pretak (vocalist, pianist); Ross Bish (vocalist); Megan Fannin (vocalist); Alexa Marciniak(vocalist); Carley Chiesa (vocalist); Sami Ferragine (vocalist); Haley Freeburg (vocalist); Anna Stanko (vocalist); Lily Deane (vocalist); Hannah Ross (vocalist); Megan Inghram (vocalist); Todd Fannin (vocalist, guitarist); Ginette Watts (vocalist); Ashton Watts (vocalist); Sara Vallone; Dancers from April School of Dance and Studio K. There was also a Chinese Auction with 16 items donated by local businesses and the Pretaks.

We are so very grateful to the Pretaks for their steadfast enthusiasm for the mission of FIRST. We’d like to also offer a special note of gratitude to all who participated in their spectacular Release the Butterfly event! Your support makes all the difference.


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