After a rough initial year, including violently strong rain and unseasonably cold weather, the Rock For Jake Benefit Concert is returning for another year, this time held indoors to guard against potential weather upsets.
The Rock for Jake concert is held in commemoration of Jake Offutt, a Winters Mill High School freshman who died in 2015 after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
Soon after Jake died, his parents, Leah and Joe Offutt, started The Jake Offutt Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting pediatric cancer research, the Winters Mill football team and scholarships for those looking to attend martial arts classes. Last year, the family began the now-annual Rock for Jake fundraiser in order to support the foundation. The event features a selection of local bands, vendors, games, food and silent auctions.
"We were trying to think of a fundraiser to do that would mean something to Jake, but also raise funds for the community and for pediatric cancer," Leah said. "Jake loved music, and after some brainstorming, we ended up coming across local Carroll County bands who signed up immediately as I told them what we set out to do."
After a lifetime of migraine headaches, Jake was first diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare type of brain tumor, in December 2014, around winter break of his freshman year at Winters Mill High School.
In January of 2015, the school held a Jake Offutt Night during a basketball game, an event that brought out Baltimore Ravens players Bernard Pierce and Sam Koch, who met with and exchanged phone numbers with Jake. Jake passed away in July 2015.
Last year, the foundation was able to donate $4,000 to the Winters Mill athletic department and $6,000 toward St. John Catholic School's new playground fund. Leah said they would love to be able to help finish off the school's playground by this year. In addition to the school funds, they have also sponsored seven martial arts scholarships to Tristar Martial Arts Academy in Carroll, honoring Jake's second-degree black belt.
For many of the participating bands, this event is more than an opportunity to help out a worthy cause, it's an opportunity to help remember a friend. This year, Train Wreck, Making Waves, Twenty Dollar Prophet, Number 1 Cause and Half Serious will take the stage at the festival.
George Tye, of the band Train Wreck, said his daughters went to school with Jake both at St. John Catholic School and Winters Mill. When they heard about the opportunity to perform at the first Rock for Jake event, he said, they leapt at the chance.
"I know Jake was a rock music fan," Tye said. "That's part of the reason why we're doing this particular event. It helps with healing with his classmates and friends and people who knew him, as well as being a good cause for raising money."
For other bands, though, this just arose as an opportunity to give back to the community which supported them. Paul McGill, of the band Half Serious, said though they didn't know the Offutts, the entire group was excited to participate in last year's event.
"We're asked to do a ton of benefits, but we try to limit the amount, just because we can't afford to do 10 or 20 free shows a year," McGill said. "This is just something we felt compelled to do."
After last year's event had to battle some unseasonably cool May weather as well as frequent downpours that canceled some groups' sets, the Rock for Jake festival has been moved indoors at the Carroll County Agriculture Center this year.
Mike Woolf, of the group Twenty Dollar Prophet, said the rain did seem to affect turnout last year but would likely have less of an effect this year.
"It was rainy and it was cold, and we had the event outside," Woolf said. "Thankfully, we're one of those bands who play anywhere, anytime, so we were ready. We ended up getting lucky though; the rain stopped 15 minutes before we started, and it stopped right after we finished."
In addition to the bands, the event will feature face painting, balloon animals, inflatables as well as vendors for adults to shop at. The event will also host a silent auction with more than 60 items, including passes to Liberty Mountain Resort and Disney World, as well as Orioles and Ravens tickets.
Even despite the rain, Leah said they were able to raise $18,000 at last year's event. She said she hopes that with the indoor location and added space to be able to surpass that this year.
"Everything we do, we think of Jake," Leah said. "We try to honor him and live through him. If he can't be with us, I want to do things that he would be proud of."
If You Go
What: Rock for Jake Music Benefit
When: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 20
Where: Carroll County Agriculture Center, Shipley Arena, 706 Agriculture Center Drive, Westminster
Cost: $10 per person or $50 for families up to six,
For more information: Visit www.jakeoffuttfoundation.com