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Country singer/songwriter John Rich received the first-ever Randy Owen Angels Among Us Award during the annual songwriter’s dinner at the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® radio seminar in Memphis this weekend.
Presented by ALABAMA front man Randy Owen who started Country Cares for St. Jude Kids in 1989, the award recognizes a member of the country music industry who demonstrates an immeasurable commitment to kids battling cancer and other deadly diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Since it began, Country Cares has raised more than $400 million for St. Jude.
Rich first walked through the doors of St. Jude more than 15 years ago with his guitar and entertained a group of patients. He continued his support of the hospital as a Country Cares artist. Last year, Rich competed on the hit NBC show The Celebrity Apprentice on behalf of St. Jude, winning more than $1.4 million for the hospital.
“St. Jude holds a very special place in my heart,” said Rich. “It’s like no other place and I’m just so honored to help raise awareness for this organization and to receive the first-ever Angels Among Us Award from Randy.”
Owen lauded Rich’s contributions to St. Jude. “This past year John really embodied what Country Cares for St. Jude Kids is all about,” said Owen. “It’s really unbelievable to look back over the past 23 years and see what the country music industry has helped us accomplish for St. Jude. This award is a way for us to say thank you to select members of the industry for their continued commitment and support.”
The Country Cares for St. Jude Kids seminar drew both new and established artists this year, including Lauren Alaina, Brent Anderson, Katie Armiger, Kelleigh Bannen, Lee Brice, Kix Brooks, Burns and Poe, Due West, Tim Dugger, Margaret Durante, Eden’s Edge, Eli Young Band, Andy Gibson, J.T. Hodges, The Farm, Steve Holy, Randy Houser, Jana Kramer, Love and Theft, Dustin Lynch, Martina McBride, Kip Moore, Lost Trailers, Jon Pardi, Thomas Rhett, David St. Romain, Canaan Smith, Glen Templeton, Josh Thompson, Darren Warren and James Wesley.
“For me, St. Jude always has been very inspiring,” Brooks said following his tour. “These kids have no concept of not making it. That inspires me, and it makes you realize, ‘I’ve got a responsibility to make sure it happens, and that these kids make it.’”
The country music industry’s generous support for St. Jude doesn’t surprise McBride. “Country music is a lot about family and values and real life. I think that it’s just a natural partnership.”
McBride added: “Anything that we (country artists) can do to help St. Jude we should just do it. They are literally saving lives and finding new cures for cancer that they share with the whole world.”
“I think everybody should support St. Jude,” said country music artist Lauren Alaina. “If you came here, you would definitely support it. I met a little girl who cried for her nurse because she wanted her nurse to come and play with her. That’s unheard of. It’s a great atmosphere and a beautiful place.”
For rising country star Darren Warren, walking the halls of St. Jude is like coming home. Warren spent three years as a St. Jude patient, receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Each time he comes back, he is awed by the changes that have been made.
“Here I was, one day being treated at St. Jude as a patient—for three years—and I come back in and see all the changes to the hospital. It’s incredible. And to see how much they’re progressing and the strides they’re making at changing children’s lives around the world … it’s just incredible. It doesn’t feel like a hospital. It feels like what it should feel like: a place of hope.”
In addition to this array of artists, the seminar played host to nearly 800 radio and music industry professionals who work to execute annual radiothon fundraisers for St. Jude each year. Throughout the weekend, the seminar guests heard inspiring stories of hope from St. Jude patients and shared strategies during sessions designed to help them create winning radiothons. They had the opportunity to meet St. Jude patients and tour the hospital, as well.