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July music festival in Sewickley to benefit Christopher’s Kitchen

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Nicole Pampena
Musicians perform at a Sewickley music festival in 2017 to benefit Christopher's Kitchen.

Stylist Joni D’Alessandro was cutting a young man’s hair at Van Salon in Sewickley last year when the two got to talking about her nonprofit, Christopher’s Kitchen.

The young man, Sewickley resident Millen Schuchert, liked the mission of D’Alessandro’s organization — to bring an operating food pantry into a hospital.

He expressed interest in helping put together a music festival to benefit Christopher’s Kitchen.

“Next thing I knew he had gone to the borough, he had procured the street, he had the performers. This young man was amazing,” D’Alessandro said.

After the success of last year’s inaugural festival, Schuchert is organizing the event once again.

It will take place on Division Street, between Broad Street and Locust Place, on July 7 and runs from 6 to 9 p.m.

“I know how passionate Joni is about this charity, so I really wanted to make this event as cool as possible just because I love the vision of this, and I know how important it is,” Schuchert said.

At the festival, attendees can donate food and money to benefit Christopher’s Kitchen. The event, according to D’Alessandro, will also raise awareness for the organization’s work — which Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville has a great need for. Three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — Christopher’s Kitchen goes into the hospital and fills its pantry with food.

“We try to keep it as healthy as we can, but it has to be packaged food with the ingredients and the dates and all that stuff on it, for health reasons,” D’Alessandro said.

Christopher’s Kitchen also has partnered with two groups that make brown bag lunches, which volunteers take to the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s once a week.

“The pediatric ICU needs help very badly. We cannot afford to put a pantry in right now, so we’re just doing brown bag lunches,” D’Alessandro said.

A longtime volunteer, D’Alessandro has put in a lot of time at Children’s over the years. While helping out, she met many parents who could not afford to buy meals from the hospital’s cafeteria on a consistent basis when visiting a sick child.

The idea for Christopher’s Kitchen was born, and the organization now connects parents and families who visit the hospital with free, high-quality food. The charity earned nonprofit status about a year ago.

“We have some great donors, the Penguins Foundation donated $10,000,” D’Alessandro said.

Christopher’s Kitchen has received private donations as well, and “people drop off food at Van Salon constantly,” D’Alessandro stated proudly.

With Schuchert’s help, D’Alessandro hopes to rally more people behind her organization’s mission.

Schuchert already has four musical acts on the bill for July’s festival. Performing acts include Uniontown native Julia Capuzzi, duo Paul Benson and Brent Stater, local band All Shook Up and duo Ben Clouse and McKayla Cox.

“There’s a lot of ‘maybes’ right now, but they’re still trying to get back to me,” Schuchert said. “There will definitely be more than that.”

The festival also will include face painting, a gift basket raffle and two food trucks — Edgar’s Best Tacos and Dad’s Mobile Grub.

“I think this is going to be one of our annual events, just because it’s fun, and it’s just heartwarming to see this young man go through all of this to put things together, to make this happen,” D’Alessandro said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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