In many ways, Layten Bowser is like most little boys.
He likes to hang out with his twin brother, Landen, and cousin Beau, who also happen to be his best friends, and go swimming with them whenever he can.
He loves sleepovers, playing on his iPad, taking photographs, riding his bike and visiting amusement parks.
Unlike most young boys, though, Layten faces a life-threatening health challenge that doesn’t always allow him to participate in those fun activities.
Layten, 7, the focus of the 19th annual Rock for Life charity rock weekend Aug. 3-4, in Iselin Community Park, near Apollo-Ridge High School, was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma two weeks after he started kindergarten.
This fall the Ford City resident is to enter third grade with his brother at Lenape Elementary. His sister Laylie will start kindergarten.
HEALTH CHALLENGE AHEAD
His type of cancer typically begins to grow in the abdomen, usually starting in the adrenal gland. By the time Layten’s was found in September 2016, it amassed 60 percent of his abdomen, and cancer cells were found in his shoulder, legs and bone marrow, and it has since spread.
For now, he remains active, when he has the strength, says his mother Angelyn Waldor of Ford City.
“He always has a smile on his face, and never complains. He does what he has to do, and never questions why this has happened to him,” she says. “For him, cancer is just a word. It’s not the end of his life. It’s just stolen a small part of it, for now.”
HUGS AND HIGH-FIVES
“We do our best to let him live the life a 7-year-old should. He’s the brightest, funniest, and kind boy, who loves to give hugs and high-fives.” The local music community hopes to keep that smile on his face and ease his family’s financial strain, with the Rock for Life weekend.
It is the mission of Rock for Life to provide financial support to needy individuals residing in Western Pennsylvania who are suffering from life threatening diseases.
The nonprofit, administered through Leechburg Moose, sponsors music festivals and other music-related and general fundraising events to raise the monies necessary to support its purpose.
A GIANT FAMILY
Musician Matt Ferrante of Avonmore, one of the founders and organizers of the all-ages, family-friendly event, says Rock for Life is like a giant family.
“Hundreds of musicians, staff members, and various volunteers come together for one single reason, to help others. And we also have had decades of the greatest, most loyal fans around,” he explains.
It is an honor and humbling to be chosen for this recognition says Waldor.
“Rock for Life is an amazing event, hosted by a great group of people who have dedicated a majority of their lives giving back to families in need,” she says. “Layten is in awe of all the attention.”
THIS YEAR’S MUSIC
Ferrante says he can’t wait for this year’s show, which includes country, blues, Southern rock, classic rock, 80s rock, hard rock, heavy metal and acoustic.
“There’s a little something for everyone,” he says. “There are a lot of returning bands such as Skell, Big House Pete and of course my band, After the Fall. Our good friends from Columbus, Ohio, XFACTOR1, also return for this year’s show. We have a terrific country artist in Terry Lee Spencer, and, for the first time, a killer ’80’s party rock band, Ferris Bueller’s Revenge.”
CAMPING IS ENCOURAGED
Camping is encouraged, and a variety of food can be purchased.
Reina Peli of Upper Burrell, a music fan who annually chronicles the weekend in her photographs for a fundraising calendar, is impressed with the atmosphere at Rock for Life.
VERY FAMILY FRIENDLY
“The dedication of the bands performing for free is heartwarming. They get to rock out for a good cause and are true rock stars to the kids they help each year,” she says.
“There are tons of kids, so it’s very family friendly. Pets too, on leashes. It’s always nice to see the bands’ family in the crowd. Not too often they can go to see a parent perform on stage.”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.