April 27 benefit set for Albion native, now a teacher in Buffalo, battling rare brain cancer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 March 2019 at 1:30 pm

Provided photo: Erica and Thom Jennings are pictured with their daughter, Elle, who recently turned 1.

ALBION – The Western New York community has responded in a big way after news that an Albion native was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer just before Christmas.

Erica Jennings is a Spanish and English teacher at City Honors in Buffalo. She and her high school sweetheart, Thom, have a daughter, Elle, who just turned 1. The couple started dating 13 years ago. They walked across the stage together when they graduated from Brockport State College. They are both 30.

Erica, the daughter of Tom and Angie Graham of Albion, experienced throbbing migraines just before Christmas. Her husband took her to the emergency room and she was diagnosed with Glioblastoma on Dec. 21. She has since undergone two extensive brain surgeries and is currently undergoing chemo and radiation treatment at Roswell Park in Buffalo.

More than 700 people have given nearly $40,000 through a GoFundMe to help the Jennings family.

The GoFundMe includes numerous testimonials about Erica from students, families, colleagues and other community members.

“I loved being in your class. Sending you love and prayers Mrs. Jennings,” one student writes.

“We donated because Ms Jennings is an amazing person and an outstanding teacher!!” writes another person.

The couple’s story has been featured in the Buffalo media, including as a Valentine’s love feature in The Buffalo News.

Now the local community has a chance to assist the family with a benefit on April 27 at the Sacred Heart Club, 189 North Gravel Rd., Medina. Friends and family are organizing the event.

The benefit will be from noon to 8 p.m. and features a big basket raffle and silent auction. Some of the items donated include signed Buffalo Bills and Sabres memorabilia, signed music items from national artists such as Foreigner, Black Sabbath (with Ozzy Osbourne), Toto, Mountain, Todd Rundgren, The Black Keys and others. Thom’s father, Thom Jennings, is a music writer and musician and has lots of connections. A bicycle and other larger items will be raffled throughout the day as well.

A chicken barbeque will be available is being handled by Thom’s uncle, Mike Zeliff. Tickets are available online at Jenningsbenefit.org or email bbqtix@jenningsbenefit.org. There also will be other food items for sale on the day of the event.

The music program features an impressive selection of local and national artists. Bruce Wojick and Jamie Holka are both Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame inductees. In addition to performing with his own band, Wojick is a member of national recording artists Klear, and performs with Strictly Hip, a Tragically Hip tribute band. Holka is a member of Captain Beyond, a popular national act.

The bill also includes one half of the popular Dady Brothers, who will be performing along with his daughter Mara Dady, and Josh Cogovan, a talented singer-songwriter who is popular in Orleans County, and is a former founding member of Experimental Sandwich. Other artists will be announced soon.

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