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Bluegrass Jam's Fundraising Total Exceeds $200,000

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Bluegrass Marathon JamNeil Hamrick's eyes glistened with tears as he was presented the Maryland Distinguished Citizen Proclamation by Gov. Larry Hogan's Deputy Press Secretary Lorena Rivera. A letter sent to the Governor and County Executive's offices describes Hamrick as "a selfless individual who works tirelessly behind the scenes and in front for the Fisher House organization." The presentation was made during Hamrick's 7th Annual Bluegrass Marathon Jam on Feb. 27, proclaimed "Neil Hamrick Day" by Hogan. Representatives from the County Executive's Office, Knights of Columbus and Fisher House Foundation were also in attendance and acknowledged Hamrick's contributions.

"I loved Neil Hamrick Day," Hamrick said. "The presentation was touching but a bit overwhelming. I really wish there had been a dozen or so more of these citations to pass out to the rest of my team. I know how hard everyone involved in this works and I would like more than anything to share that with them."

The 12-hour event Bluegrass Marathon Jam was held at American Legion Post #276 in Severn and included a silent auction and raffles with proceeds benefiting Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit that provides homes away from home for military families to stay close to their loved one during hospitalization from illness or injury. Last year's proceeds put the grand total collected since the beginning over $150,000. The proceeds from Hamrick's 2016 Bluegrass Marathon however, exceeded all expectations, except maybe Hamrick's.

"I was pretty sure this was going to happen with money still floating in after the Jam but I wanted to make sure it happened before I added it," Hamrick said. "In the seven years of existence of the Marathon Bluegrass Jam, we now have donated more than $200,000 to Fisher House."

It's estimated approximately 550-600 people came to hear as many as 80 bluegrass musicians hailing from five states. At one point, there were more than 25 musicians on stage jamming together. "We also had Nashville recording artist, Valerie Smith (Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike)," Hamrick said.

Hamrick has a Bluegrass band, C&O Express. The local group has been playing together for 10 years and has developed a following.

The Fisher House"The Jam started as something that just seemed like a lot of fun," Hamrick said. "We didn't know Fisher House Foundation all that well and were really just looking to do something that was good for the community. In the years since we've come to know many of the Fisher House people and have found out what incredible work they do for our military personnel and their families."

Hamrick has personal ties to the military as well, making the marriage between military and music a sealed deal. His father, Cecil Hamrick, was a Sergeant in the Army and served in World War II. He was captured, forced to walk the Death March of Bataan (a 65-mile walk to a prison camp) and spent two years in a prison camp before his release, Hamrick explained. His daughter is a captain in the Army, stationed in South Korea.

Hamrick attributes most of the credit for the successful fundraiser to his small but mighty team just a dozen strong. He doesn't forget to acknowledge the 50-plus volunteers, musicians, American Legion Post #276, sponsors and members of the community who support the cause.

"We want people to spend, donate what they can afford and still walk out the door with a smile on their face because they helped a good cause and had a lot of fun in the process," Hamrick said. "I think that's what keeps everyone one coming back."

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