Highlands Health

John Kubinsky (toward right), president of Highlands Health, gives a TV interview on Wednesday as the free medical clinic, in cooperation with e.map and Johnstown Area Heritage Association, announced an annual benefit concert featuring Donnie Iris and The Cruisers on Aug. 24 at Peoples Natural Gas Park in downtown Johnstown.

A fancy car, cigars and Pittsburgh sports garb provided the background for Wednesday’s announcement that Donnie Iris and The Cruisers will headline the Highlands Health free medical clinic’s annual benefit concert Aug. 24 in Johnstown. 

“Donnie Iris is an icon,” Jack Babich, president of concert sponsor e.map, said during the announcement event at Peoples Natural Gas Park. 

Standing beside a 2012 Aston Martin sports car, owned by clinic volunteer bookkeeper Ron Kuchera, of Johnstown, Babich recalled past shows by Iris, including shows at Ace’s in Cambria City when it was owned by Babich’s family. 

“He goes way, way back in Johnstown,” Babich said. “Donnie Iris and The Cruisers have played here since the late ’70s, and he loves Johnstown. We are so excited about that this year. I guarantee you, on that evening, he will put on a great show.”

Tickets are $20 in advance and are available at Highlands Health’s 340 Main St. clinic in Johnstown or on its website, highlandshealthclinic.org, said John Kubinsky, clinic board president. 

“Also, we are asking for local businesses to be sponsors,” Kubinsky said. “Watch for your letters in the mail.”

Clinic Executive Director Rosalie Danchanko said the announcement event’s theme of fancy cars, cigars, Pittsburgh sports attire and rock and roll represented the passions of the concert headliner, Donnie Iris. 

“We do not promote smoking,” Danchanko said. “It’s really just a prop for the entertainment of the crowds and for having fun.”

Pittsburgh band Cracked Voices will open the show, featuring lead singer David Straight. 

 “We are so excited to be opening up for the immortal Donnie Iris,” Straight said. 

“We are going to have a blast and just set the stage for the big man, Donnie, and his band to come on and just take it to the people.”

Straight urged music fans to get their tickets early. 

“This place is going to be jammed,” he said. 

In addition to music, the event will feature food vendors and beverages, said

Richard Burkert, president and CEO of Johnstown Area Heritage Association. JAHA is co-sponsoring the event at PNG Park, which Burkert said was developed by JAHA for community events.

“This has always made for a great time,” Burkert said. “We love pulling the community together.”

Proceeds from the fundraiser will help Highlands Health continue providing medical care for the uninsured and underinsured of Cambria and Somerset counties, he said. 

“These are our fellow citizens here in Johnstown,” Burkert said. “These are our friends. 

“They really deserve to get the type of medical assistance they need. We are pleased to be part of that effort.”

Straight is e.map’s vice president and has been involved with the business coalition since it was founded in the late 1990s. Also known as Employers Medical Access Partnership, the non-profit uses the negotiating power of nearly 2,000 Cambria, Blair, Somerset, Bedford and Indiana county employers to obtain more affordable health care rates with UPMC Health Plan. 

It is run by volunteers and donates its surplus funds back to employers and supports community health organizations and initiatives, Babich said. 

“We don’t have any paid employees,” he said. “This is the kind of thing we spend our money on.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.