As production director for a Louisville, Kentucky, radio station, Dave Lee had an idea in the early 1990s that has echoed through the decades.
During one of the early Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® radiothons, Lee incorporated pre-recorded St. Jude patient interviews into the Bellamy Brothers hit, Let your Love Flow, to create the first "story song" for the radiothon. “We started playing it on the air and the calls quadrupled,” says Lee. Country Cares eventually adopted that format for all of its radiothons.
At the 25th Country Cares for St. Jude Kids seminar in Memphis on January 16-19, Lee was among the early supporters recognized for his contribution to the Country Cares campaign. Now creative director for Clear Channel Louisville, Lee considers his association with Country Cares “the most important work I ever did.”
He joined more than 1,000 members of the country music and radio industries at the seminar, which offers a firsthand look at the work of St. Jude. The seminar, which celebrates St. Jude radio partners, also gives St. Jude patients and families the chance to meet some of their favorite country music artists.
Country Cares for St. Jude Kids began in 1989 after Randy Owen, lead singer of the music group ALABAMA, met St. Jude founder Danny Thomas. Owen asked his colleagues and friends in country music to help support St. Jude and Country Cares went on to become one of the most successful radio fundraising events in the nation, raising $500 million since it began.
Country fans have a special affinity for St. Jude, says Gary LeVox, a lead singer for the band, Rascal Flatts.
“There is no more loyal fan base on the planet than country music fans. Their hearts are so huge, once they latch onto something they enjoy, they never let it go,” LeVox says. “Musically, it is through lyrics that the fans latch onto the stories we tell, and there is no bigger story on the planet than St. Jude. It is a story of hope.”
Country singer and 2013 Dancing with the Stars winner Kellie Pickler also visited St. Jude during the seminar. “Country music is not just about the songs; it’s about people. We have to take care of each other,” she says. “When you walk through those doors (of St. Jude) you are not a patient, you’re family.”
The weekend seminar welcomed other special guests including GRAMMY-nominated country music artist Hunter Hayes; Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale who just released her first country recording; and Cassadee Pope, winner of NBC's The Voice. The seminar also featured special appearances by country artists Brantley Gilbert, Jake Owen, Sara Evans, Rodney Atkins and Scotty McCreery.