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Hearts On Fire Concert Rocked, Inspired Hundreds At Ives

Published: July 12, 2019 at 07:00 am

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DANBURY — As a brilliant setting sun poked through clouds that hours earlier were dumping torrential rains, fans of classic rock and supporters of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement mixed and mingled on June 30 at Ives Concert Park.

They came together to honor one of the young victims of 12/14 and to raise support and awareness for a social emotional learning program that is now being adopted in households and school systems across America thanks to the energy his mom, Scarlett Lewis, is devoting to the initiative.

The occasion was the venue’s first Hearts On Fire concert and family event promoting The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, sponsored by The Tapping Solution.

The event featured food trucks and vendors, including Weenie Lynn’s, Greeks in Your Town, Three Little Pigs BBQ, and the Tie Dying Mamas.

Attendees of all ages took selfies in front of an enormous dragon puppet named Violet, created by the Connecticut Guild of Puppetry, before the wispy creature “took flight” under the power of several puppeteers for occasional spins around the concert park grounds — often bobbing to the great tunes rolling from the stage.

Youngsters who were particularly inspired settled down to create their own duck puppet with Sova Theatre Company, while the Choose Love duck mascot (Chandler O’Neal) waddled around the group, maintaining a watchful eye on their progress.

Other kids who were decidedly more mischievous opted to venture into a slime station or participate in a rousing scavenger hunt, while parents and visitors looked over the many raffle prizes donated by local merchants and tested their luck, hoping to take one home.

And of course, the entire day was set to a soundtrack of music from artists including Doug Allen, who galvanized early birds with a tribute to Jesse he wrote called “Choose Love.” Hours after his set, Allen was still humbly accepting props from fellow performers, including John Cafferty, who brought his Beaver Brown Band to headline the show.

In between, Connecticut’s own Spadtastics delivered a selection of note perfect Grateful Dead tunes packed with tight harmonies and soaring guitar solos that had everyone grooving in the late afternoon warmth.

Prior to Cafferty and his band taking the stage, Ms Lewis visited the stage joined by an army of Choose Love volunteers whose assistance helped make the event such a success. Calling on several key supporters, Ms Lewis acknowledged their contributions while remembering her late son.

Recalling his bravery on 12/14 as he helped save a number of his classmates, Ms Lewis urged everyone in the audience to choose love in the face of adversity and to be inspired by Jesse’s courage.

Reflecting on how her social emotional learning system is changing young lives across the country, she talked about visiting programs in schools.

“I’ll look into a child’s eyes and see Jesse,” she told the crowd.

Ms Lewis was joined onstage briefly by Jesse 's father, Neil Heslin, holding an American flag during the national anthem, before Cafferty and his bandmates arrived to cheers from the crowd.

Greeting him with a hug, Ms Lewis noted that John and his wife, Terry Lee Cafferty, were huge supporters of the cause in their home state of Rhode Island. As she headed off stage, Cafferty wasted no time launching into a rocking set that included hits like “On The Dark Side” and “Tender Years” from the film Eddie and the Cruisers.

Mixing in a couple of obscure rock covers, the band also delivered the number one charting title track from their 1985 album Tough All Over and their follow-up hit “C-I-T-Y.”

The show would not have been complete, of course, without Cafferty performing “Hearts on Fire” from Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV soundtrack.

In a Newtown Bee interview ahead of the show, Cafferty had said that he “always believed music is a giving thing, and if you do it right, you get the chance to lift people’s hearts — it’s a great gift to give and a great gift to receive, so it’s our goal at every show to cater to the moment and make the show as unique and special as it can be.”

Cafferty said as he and his family have become more involved with the Choose Love Movement, they have discovered the work of Scarlett Lewis bringing SEL concepts to so many across the country has equipped a generation of young people “with an incredible sense of well-being and self control.”

For more information on the Hearts On Fire concert and the Choose Love Movement, visit jesselewischooselove.org.

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