CMA Close UP® Country Cares for St. Jude Kids

Florida Georgia Line with patient Tyler in front of the St. Jude statue at the hospital’s main entrance.

COUNTRY CARES FOR ST. JUDE KIDS

Florida Georgia Line with patient Tyler in front of the St. Jude statue at the hospital’s main entrance.
Florida Georgia Line with patient Tyler in front of the St. Jude statue at the hospital’s main entrance.

By Kip Kirby

© 2015 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Over the next year, 16,000 children and adolescents in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer. Twenty percent of them will not survive — a grim statistic, but one that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, is doing everything possible to reverse.

In 1989, having fallen ill, hospital founder Danny Thomas was unable to deliver the keynote address at that year’s Country Ra­dio Seminar in Nashville. Alabama frontman Randy Owen filled in for his friend and chal­lenged Country broadcasters to take on Thomas’s mission of wiping out pediatric cancer and provid­ing lifesaving medical attention for stricken children at no charge to their families.

Country radio received the mes­sage loud and clear. Shortly after­ward, Country Cares for St. Jude Kids was born. Since then, the char­ity has raised more than $500 mil­lion through radiothons, local pro­motions, concerts, tournaments and industry contributions.

“Country Cares means the world to us,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC/St. Jude. (ALSAC, originally the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, is the St. Jude fundraising organization.) “It not only raises money to allow St. Jude to continue our lifesaving work, but it also raises awareness about the importance of our mission and the importance of making sure the world knows that pediatric cancer is woefully underfunded.”

Today, a number of superstars are actively involved in supporting Country Cares. Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly have decorated one of the main rooms in the hospital’s long-term housing facility, the St. Jude Target House. Keith Urban co-founded Country Fans Care, a program allowing fans to donate to St. Jude in honor of their favorite artists. John Rich raised $1.4 million for St. Jude as a contestant on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” And Darius Rucker hosts a concert and golf tournament fundraiser for St. Jude during CMA Music Festival.

Darius Rucker hits the recording booth with St. Jude patient Brennan. Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Jude
Darius Rucker hits the recording booth with St. Jude patient Brennan.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Jude

Country Cares is fueled by ideas that keep the program growing creatively. The “No Shave November” fundraiser invites music industry pros volunteer to stash their razors throughout the month in order to spread awareness and further raise donations for St. Jude. Thanks to support from the hospital’s Country radio partners across the United States, “No Shave November” now brings in nearly a quarter of a million dollars. And the annual St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville gives supporters, sponsors and teams a chance to become “St. Jude Heroes” and raise funds for the hospital’s lifesaving mission. John Rich adds to its luster by welcoming the event’s top fundraisers to his home on the Sunday after the race.

“The future for Country Cares is incredibly bright,” said Shadyac. “We continue to add radio stations. We continue to add artists who are dedicated to carrying on Randy Owen’s legacy. It’s necessary. It costs $2 million a day to operate St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Seventy-five percent of that money has to be raised from the outside. We’re taking on more and more kids. We’re doing research that nobody is doing in the field of deadly pediatric diseases. The support of the Country Music industry and our radio partners through Country Cares is critical for us to be able to do what we do. We are incredibly appreciative.”

Visit www.stjude.org for more on fund-raising opportunities for supporters of St. Jude.