Benefit Concert Draws Top-Tier Artists and Crowds for Autism Awareness

FOCUS Center for Autism Executive Director Donna Swanson and Board Members Patty Cables, Tim Grady and Craig Ellis assemble on stage alongside performers from the Mixed Signals band at the first ever “FOCUS Rocks Bridge Street” benefit concert, which also included Connecticut-based artists Kerri Powers, George Mastrogiannis and The Michael Cleary Band.

For the first time in its 18-year existence, FOCUS Center for Autism recently hosted a benefit concert that rocked the night away for more than 100 guests who came out to support FOCUS in spite of the deluge of rain! The event helped fundraise for the organization’s initiatives that assist children and families with autism all year long.

The concert was held at the 41 Bridge Street Live venue in Collinsville, overlooking the Farmington River. The setting was offered to FOCUS by Gary Cardillo, the owner of Bridge Street Live in order to give back and help assist positive forces that are making an impact in the local community.

Timothy Grady, a board member at FOCUS for Autism, was key in assembling a lineup of local artists to entertain a crowd for the evening and contribute to a great cause.

“I have always been a big music fan, especially live music,” said Grady. “I thought, why not try to get a benefit concert started for FOCUS?”

The entire event was complete with food from the Green Door Restaurant, including house-made pizzas and refreshments to satisfy the appetite of attendees who worked up a sweat dancing and celebrating. A VIP package was provided to guests who wanted to experience a front row view of the show, a commemorative t-shirt, and other special perks.

Kerri Powers and George Mastrogiannis kicked off the evening with their set of Blues, Roots, Americana, Country, and Folk performed with an attitude and a sharp tongue. Following the opening duo, Connecticut-based funk band Mixed Signals showcased its own groove-oriented, high energy music consisting of hits from the last four decades.  The cover song of Steely Dan’s “Reeling in the Years” was a crowd favorite.

The headliners and final performers of the evening, The Michael Cleary Band, celebrated their 27th year of performing original music with a riveting and foot-stomping performance of their original groovy music.  Its tribute to the music of Michael Jackson had the entire room on its feet.

Michael Cleary, the lead man in his namesake’s band, offered his reasoning behind performing and contributing to FOCUS’ mission.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Cleary. We had so much fun performing in front of this audience, and we know the impact will be felt by more than just the guests we had in attendance with us tonight.”

“I couldn’t have envisioned a more successful inaugural event,” said Donna Swanson, Executive Director of FOCUS Center for Autism.  “Such a fantastic time was had by attendees and students that the bands have already expressed interest in repeating the event. Each band spoke to me and said they were thrilled to be a part of this and they all got far more back than what they gave!!

Since 2000, the nonprofit FOCUS Center for Autism in Canton has been dedicated to helping children and young adults with autism spectrum and other related disorders achieve their full potential. FOCUS has developed a well-respected model of treatment that has now served over 1000 children and families.

The FOCUS Fresh Start School is a private, state approved special education program offering children with autism spectrum disorder and related disorders a quality education experience that addresses both their academic and clinical needs. For more information visit or call (860) 693-8809. Friend us on


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