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It was a busy weekend at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as the second largest gathering of country music industry professionals concluded the three-day seminar for the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® radio program.
Now, the more than 800 radio representatives will head back to their communities to prepare for the Country Cares radiothons at their stations. The typically two-day radiothons feature auctions, giveaways, call-ins by country music celebrities and patient stories. Country radio listeners have pledged more than $200 million for St. Jude through 15 years of Country Cares, and the seminar's events on Saturday helped further excite and motivate the radio stations as they head into the busiest part of radiothon season.
Saturday started out with an inspirational message from St. Jude patient mom Vicky Fairey whose son lost his battle with cancer. She encouraged the group to remember the need to continue the research into childhood catastrophic diseases. Only through the research will these diseases be eliminated once and for all.
Later at the luncheon, 15-year-old St. Jude patient Jessica Turri shared her story with the group. Discovered to have acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 9, Jessica spent three years battling the disease. The treatments, she said, caused her hair to fall out on three different occasions. But that wasn't the most difficult part of battling cancer.
"I became good friends with 25 kids who lost their battle," she told them. "Losing my hair wasn't bad. Losing my friends was the worst part."
Which is why, Jessica said, the Country Cares program is so important: so that St. Jude can find a way to stop cancer from taking friends; to stop cancer from taking children from their parents.
Following Jessica's speech, Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, gave a motivational lecture to the group, discussing some of the lessons that appear in his Chicken Soup-series of books and how they could be applied to everyday life and to helping continue Danny Thomas' dream.
Saturday evening, the country radio representatives heard first-hand accounts from those on the frontline of the battle with childhood catastrophic diseases. The families of patients Luke Robinson, Hayley Arceneaux, Danielle Broadway and Jakob Valenzuela gave attendees a glimpse into the lives shattered by the discovery of cancer and how St. Jude helped to put the pieces back together.
Samanthia, grandmother to patient Danielle, said that when she, her daughter and granddaughter walked into St. Jude, "I stepped into the closest thing to being in heaven here on earth. When you walk through St. Jude, you see God in the halls. You see angels floating around watching over these kids."
Colleen Arceneaux, mother of patient Hayley, thanked the stations for their support over the years. "It is so kind of you to give your time (to support St. Jude)," she said. "So many of these children you don't even know, but you help them."
The weekend-long seminar concluded with the annual Songwriters' Dinner featuring performances by Rick Carnes, Becky Hobbs, Merle Kilgore, Lee Thomas Miller, Ronnie Rogers and Don Rollins. These writers have written songs that have been performed by country artists such as George Jones, Johnny Cash, Terri Clark, Loretta Lynn and groups such as Brooks & Dunn and ALABAMA.
St. Jude also recognized five individuals and more than 25 stations that have been with the Country Cares program since the beginning. Individuals honored were Bill Mayne, Don Langford, Lon Helton, Greg Fowler and Lana Montgomery Couch, the foundation president of United Service Association For Healthcare, the seminar's presenting sponsor.
Country radio stations honored for 15 years of work with Country Cares were:
|WQYK - Tampa, FL |
WKAK - Albany, GA
WSTH - Columbus, GA
WKKT - Charlotte, NC
WKML - Fayetteville, NC
WPAP - Panama City, FL
WDEN - Macon, GA
WAMZ - Louisville, KY
WKOA - Lafayette, IN
WTCR - Huntington, WV
WWMS - Tupelo, MS
KHLS - Blytheville, AR
KSPQ - West Plains, MO
KAMS - Thayer, MO
|WGKX - Memphis, TN |
WIL - St. Louis, MO
KCLR - Columbia, MO
KEZS - Cape Girardeau, MO
WUSY - Chattanooga, TN
WSIX - Nashville, TN
WIVK - Knoxville, TN
WXBQ - Tri-Cities, TN/VA
WFMB - Springfield, IL
KXKZ - Monroe, LA
KMDL - Lafayette, LA
KSON - San Diego, CA
KMPS - Seattle, WA
KDRK - Spokane, WA
“It’s a thrill to see Country Cares completing 15 very successful years, said Terre Thomas, daughter of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas. “My father would have been so happy and proud to see all they’ve done to further the work at St. Jude. There is no telling how many thousands of children’s lives have been saved — and will be saved — through their tireless efforts.”