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Apocalypse Meow concert aids Kansas City musicians when medical expenses pile up

Jazz singer Molly Hammer received $2,000 from Abby’s Fund after she found out her breast cancer had returned.
Jazz singer Molly Hammer received $2,000 from Abby’s Fund after she found out her breast cancer had returned.

When doctors told her in April that her breast cancer had returned, Molly Hammer faced more than just a medical crisis.

Hammer, a Kansas City jazz singer, was without medical insurance at the time. Through a friend, she found financial assistance through the Midwest Music Foundation.

“I was pretty overwhelmed, of course,” Hammer said. “I didn’t know about Abby’s Fund, but I was contacted by Vi Tran (a fellow musician), and he let me know there were resources that could help. He sent me the application, which was very simple. Within a couple of weeks, a check for $2,000 had been sent to me.”

Abby’s Fund is named after Abigail Henderson, a Kansas City musician who co-founded the MMF with her husband, Chris Meck.

In early 2008, Henderson was diagnosed with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer; in November of that year, the Kansas City music community held a benefit concert called Apocalypse Meow to raise money for her treatment. From that initial concert, the MMF was launched.

Henderson died in August 2013, but she left behind a legacy that includes the MMF. This weekend, the foundation will present the ninth annual Apocalypse Meow. Friday’s event starts at 7 p.m. at Mills Record Co. in Westport, where Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds and Maria the Mexican will perform. It’s an all-ages event.

Saturday night, the benefit moves to the RecordBar, where seven bands will perform, including headliners Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. It’s an 18-and-older event.

In eight years, more than $88,000 has been raised for Abby’s Fund, most of it through Apocalypse Meow.

“The majority of Abby’s Fund has come from Apocalypse Meow,” said Rhonda Lyne, executive director of the MMF. Other contributions include a $5,000 grant from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas City and proceeds from other fundraisers.

The foundation has assisted 57 musicians since 2008 and awarded $77,890 in grants.

“More than $19,000 of that was just this year,” Lyne said. “As the fund has become more widely known, the demand has been greater than ever before.”

Scott Hobart, who leads the traditional country band Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys, was a beneficiary this year after injuring his hand and requiring emergency-room treatment outside the network of his employee insurance.

“I knew about (Abby’s Fund) but didn’t know much about it,” he said. “I posted something (on Facebook) from the hospital while I was being stitched up, and Rhonda replied that MMF might be able to defray some of the cost. I let her know I had insurance but the deductible was going to be tough on us after having had a baby earlier in the year.

“She said the insurance didn’t matter, and all I had to do was go online and fill out the grant application.”

He was approved for $1,500, and a check arrived in the mail two days later.

To help with prescription drugs, monthly bone-density injections and “crazy, expensive scans every two months,” Hammer is getting some assistance through Kansas Medicaid, “after an arduous five-month application process.” But the assistance from Abby’s Fund was special.

“I am still so touched and grateful for it,” she said.

So is Hobart, for what the fund did for him and what MMF does for the Kansas City music community.

“The timely and easy help we received was a very big deal for us,” he said. “A lot of things make up the fabric of a music scene, and I think the fact that the Kansas City music scene has an organization like the MMF as part of the support system is a rare and very good thing.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

This weekend

The ninth annual Apocalypse Meow will be Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s event starts at 7 p.m. at Mills Record Co., 4045 Broadway. Maria the Mexican performs at 8 p.m. Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds perform at 9 p.m. Admission is free. It’s an all-ages event.

Saturday’s event begins at 7 p.m. at RecordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear perform at 9 p.m. Also on the bill: Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type; Shapiro Brothers; Emmaline Twist; Nicholas St. James; Crystal Clayton; and Jake Wells. The event will include a silent auction and raffles plus prizes donated from Kansas City businesses. Tickets are $15. It’s an 18-and-older event.

The Midwest Music Foundation

For information on the Midwest Music Foundation, including the application process for a grant through Abby’s Fund, visit midwestmusicfoundation.org.

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