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After a year of friendly fund-raising rivalry among country music fans, the Fan Club Challenge for St. Jude Kids comes to an end this week, having raised almost $65,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
The fifteen fan clubs that participated in the program last year will be honored, and the winners of the challenge will be announced at the International Fan Club Organization (IFCO) Fun Fest show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., on June 8. The IFCO show helps launch the weeklong Country Music Association Music Festival, and proceeds from the event will benefit St. Jude.
Fans of country artists Keith Urban, Tommy Shane Steiner, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tracy Byrd, Mark Wills, Andy Griggs, Bryan White, Trick Pony, Gary Allan, Joe Nichols, Toby Keith, Wynonna Judd, Chad Brock, Trace Adkins and Michael Peterson will be on hand to celebrate the end of the Fan Club Challenge program and to mark the beginning of the program's next evolution.
Rechristened as Country Fans Care for St. Jude Kids—spotlighting its close ties to the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® radiothon program— the revamped program won't have the same competitiveness of last year's event, but its mission will be the same: to allow country fans to support their favorite artist while helping support the life-saving mission of St. Jude.
"Over the last two years, the Fan Club Challenge has been incredibly successful, but we know this new format will help the program grow by leaps and bounds," said Teri Watson, ALSAC/St. Jude Radio and Entertainment Marketing Director. "By dropping the contest element, we can all focus on the true winners—the children of St. Jude."
The idea of involving the fan clubs in the country music industry's enthusiastic support for St. Jude belonged to artist Keith Urban. In 2000, Urban burst upon the country scene, earning him the Academy of Country Music's 2001 Top New Male Vocalist Award. That year saw Urban visit St. Jude for the first time during the hospital's Country Cares for St. Jude Kids seminar, the precursor to the multitude of radiothons throughout the country. When Urban left St. Jude, what he had seen there remained with him, pushing him to become one of the Country Cares program's biggest supporters.
"One trip to St Jude will leave you with no doubt that progress is being made," Urban says. "There is no greater contribution to make in our lives than to our children, the future. In sharing their findings with hospitals all around the world, St. Jude continues to help not just the kids who are there but children and their families everywhere. This is why we initiated the Fan Club Challenge. Awareness is the key to continue and grow the support we all have for St. Jude."
In 2002, during the Country Music Association Music Festival, Urban challenged his fan club and others to raise money for St. Jude. And the clubs responded.
"For the children and families at St. Jude, one second, one small detail, one penny can make all the difference," said Keith Urban Fan Club member Wendy Godel. "(This) is our vehicle to help these courageous children. The money raised does matter, and you can see exactly where the money goes when you look into the eyes of a St. Jude patient."
"The country music and its fans continue to astound us with their commitment to St. Jude," said David L. McKee, chief operating officer for ALSAC, the hospital's fund-raising arm. "Since its inception the Country Cares program has grown tremendously, and each year they find new ways to do even more than before. I know that the staff of St. Jude—and more importantly, the families at St. Jude—is thankful for these efforts."
For more information about the fan club program or about Country Cares radiothon, please visit www.countrycares.org.
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