$50K raised at ‘Friends of JJ’s’ benefit

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hundreds of people gathered inside the Uptown Theater Tuesday evening showing support for employees of JJ's restaurant and donating to the scholarship fund of Megan Cramer -- the employee killed in the Feb. 19 restaurant explosion.

The benefit was put together in less than two weeks and employees said it exceeded all expectations.

Thirty-seven restaurants donated food, artists and businesses donated items for a silent auction and more than 1,000 friends of JJ's gave money.

"Magical night for us JJ's people," said Teri Lemos, a daytime bartender at JJ's for the past nine years.

The benefit at the Uptown theater provided music, food, drinks and time together.

"The one prevalent thing that I felt is I just really missed all my coworkers and my family you know. And realizing that we're not going to be together in one room for a really long time so that's why tonight's really special for me personally is just to have all my crew back and my family back," said Jim Ligon, who spent five years as a JJ's bartender and helped put on Tuesday night's event.

Friends and community members say it's a way to help repair the fabric of the community and the people who worked at a restaurant they say felt like home.

"I don't know if 'Cheers' every existed, I know the physical location did exist, but whatever that show was about we had here and JJ's was where we had it," said Gerry Lopez, the CEO of AMC and a friend of JJ's owner Jimmy Frantze.

Employees say the night was their time to let go and have fun, but also a time to remember

"This is unbelievable. Im touched by so many people so much," said JJ's owner Jimmy Frantze.

While friends and co-workers of Megan Cramer say she would probably hate all the attention, they say the scholarship set up in her name with some of the funds from the benefit is a way to make sure her legacy and spirit is carried on.

"She's pretty low key. So she's probably up there just kind of shaking her head like, you crazy guys, you know," Ligon said.

Frantze said, "Its very important. Megan was a good friend. She was a part of our family. And she's not with us anymore. Its terrible."

"The scholarship fund will be in her name and will be dedicated to the young artists. Megan was passionate about two things and those were, children and the arts." Ligon said.

More than 1000 tickets were sold ranging from $10 to $500 a piece. There was also a silent auction and other items on sale.

All of the money will go into the fund established at Country Club Bank to help JJ's employees and the family of Megan Cramer.

[Update] 

More than $50,000 was raised at Tuesday night's event and that does not include silent auction items, benefit organizers said. A new total should be available in several days.

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