Big band event Sunday will benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy

Cindy Pepe just might be the last person you would think would organize a big band event to help raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Pepe has had her own share of problems, and they’ve no doubt kept her very busy.

About two years ago she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and last year the single mother who usually works two jobs had to be out of work for many months just before the holidays because of the cancer.

Just three months ago she was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer.

But she says she has her health under control now, and she said that without the friends and neighbors who helped pull her through in a time of need, she wouldn’t have had food on the table or a holiday tree.

“If it had not been for so many people reaching out to me last year, I not only would have lost my home but my kids would not have had a Christmas,” she said.

Pepe and her children, Samantha, 18, and Tyler, 11, have long been advocates of helping out when and where they can. They give food to homeless people and have organized disaster relief fund-raisers.

The latest event, planned for Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, “is gong to be big,” she said.

It’s called Disaster Relief Jam. Pepe has lined up bands and comedians, a caricaturist and henna artists to provide a whole day of entertainment from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the hall, which is located at 625 Bridgeport Avenue.

“I asked one band if they’d be willing to play, and then it was like a domino effect,” she said. “When I started this, I thought I’d be begging bands to play. I actually had to start turning bands away, which I hated to do.”

She’s got eight bands, including The Elwoods, Drawing a Blank, Full Circle, Wonderbreed, Total Hacks, Howie and the Soul Potatoes, Fourth and Goal, and Cold Spring Cavern, plus comedians Suzanne McCormic, Jonny Benson and Tracy Tedesco. There also will be a DJ from Lucky Star Entertainment.

“I believe in paying it forward with my whole heart, and this is me trying to do that,” Pepe said. “So I am getting the word out as best I can and asking that people please come out and support this event.”

Funds raised will go to a special fund set up at the United Way to help storm victims.

Gary Johnson, United Way director, said the fund has $92,000 now, which includes $20,000 from the Chamber of Commerce and $50,000 from a different United Way fund. The other $22,000 has come from people and organizations around the city.

“It’s being distributed as we speak,” Johnson said.

The money is helping displaced residents pay for rent. That usually includes rent and security. There are also ShopRite and Target gift cards to help pay for food and items that people lost to the storm.

So far, the United Way has helped about 70 families in need.

Donations are still being accepted, and they may be sent to the United Way, 20 Evergreen Avenue, Milford CT 06460. People should specify that the donation is for the Sandy hurricane relief fund.

Tickets are $10 for Sunday’s Disaster Relief Jam, and may be purchased at the door. For information, call Pepe at 203-285-7912.

People and businesses have donated food and raffle items. Best Buy Corporate donated televisions, laptops, MP3s, GPS units, gaming systems, and Keurig coffeemakers.

Mayor Ben Blake sent out notice of the event from his office this week to try to boost attendance.

“The Disaster Relief Jam scheduled for Dec. 16 will support local relief efforts for those Milford victims of Storm Sandy,” he said. “This is a fantastic event for a truly worthwhile cause, and I encourage everyone to attend.”

For information or to help out at the event, people may email