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Zao Island’s 8th Annual WVLP Livin’ It Up Music Festival Brings Fun and Rockin’ Music to Benefit Porter County Special Olympics


The 8th Annual Livin’ It Up Music Festival cranked Zao Island to eleven on Saturday with a full lineup of talented local bands to raise funds in support of Porter County Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics is all volunteers,” said John King, WVLP “Livin’ It Up” Radio Host and Porter County Special Olympics Board Member, “so we have to raise our own money for all of our athletes.”

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King’s wife, a former talent scout, came up with the idea 8 years ago. The King family was trying to think up ways to raise support for the athletes, including their daughter. Nicole, a Special Olympic swimmer, loves the music and the philanthropic aspects of the Livin’ It Up Music Festival.

“I love the family, the fun and that all the proceeds go to Special Olympics,” Nicole said.

The fee for entry is very small (less than a round of mini-golf, which is included) at $5, as most of the proceeds come from the long list of sponsors.

“Over the 8 years, we’ve raised almost $75,000,” King said. Generous local sponsors– and even ones from beyond Northwest Indiana, like the Chicago White Sox– make that possible. Plus, you can win great prizes and the range of Zao Island entertainment available to attendees is incredible, with highlights including performances by The Hot Rod Heathens, The Newports, The Blues Project, Ripley Street, Chris & Lou Beatle Experience and Chicago Bonfire.

Ryan Wright, a Partner at Zao Island, was happy to host the event for the eighth year and explained that events geared toward helping the community are nothing new to the organization. 

"My father and grandpa held annual events for people with special needs as far back as 50 years ago," Wright said. "I'm really glad we can keep that tradition going with the Livin' It Up Music Festival at Zao Island to benefit the Special Olympics. It's a great event for a wonderful cause." 

Frank Ruvoli played a set of original music with Brian Mundee. After meeting King on his radio show last year, he decided to attend the event and see what it was all about and at the 7th Annual Livin’ It Up Music Festival, King invited Ruvoli to play this year. Like everything and everyone at the Special Olympics, the bands are volunteering.

“I wanted to perform because it’s a great cause,” Ruvoli said, “but also because John King is a great guy and he puts his heart and soul into this.”

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Bob Havrilla of Valparaiso brought his son Nick, who is a multi-sport athlete with the biceps to prove and enjoys coming to the Festival every year.

“I love all the songs,” he said.

“Music is a mainstay in our organization,” the senior Havrilla said. “Our athletes love music and being together.”

Music and athletics do seem to be inextricably linked. From joining mind and body to performing in unison, the rhythm of performance is enhanced through courage. The Special Olympics’ oath, after all, is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Daniel Lang of Crown Point, a former Special Olympiad, performed the National Anthem to kick off the event. Lang likens singing to participating in Special Olympics.

“You don’t know what could happen,” Lang said, “so you’ve got to keep a good attitude no matter what and give it your best shot.”

Team Indiana Softball was recognized during the event for their bronze medal win at the USA National Games in Seattle. Danielle Simon of Valpo was the team’s Assistant Coach.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the community to come out and support our cause,” Simon said, “and to make sure our athletes are able to compete every year.”

The 8th Annual Livin’ It Up Music Festival will raise a generous amount of funds for the athletes, and with all the music, entertainment and atmosphere, it made good on King’s hope.

“We try to make it a community event,” King said. “We want everybody to have a good time.”

Give John King’s WVLP “Livin’ It Up” on 103.1 FM radio. For more information about how you can support Special Olympic athletes, please visit www.soindiana.org, and for more information about Zao Island, please visit www.zaoisland.net.

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