Randy Owen Gains ‘New Appreciation’ for St. Jude Kids This Year
This past weekend, it was the 22nd Annual Country Cares for Kids at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., with over 800 country stars, industry executives and radio station personnel attending. Alabama’s Randy Owen started the Country Cares program in 1989 after meeting late St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, and to this day he's still profoundly impacted by the experience -- even more so now that he's battled cancer himself.
“The first night of the seminar, I always spend some time with three or four patients coloring or playing with blocks or playing games and finding out about their stories," Owen tells Taste of Country. "This year many of the artists attending the seminar came in near the end of that time with the kids. I realized I had something more in common with the kids than just our connection to St. Jude. I got up, gathered the kids together and told everyone we all had something in common: We’re all cancer survivors. It definitely gave me a different perspective and new appreciation for what they’re going through.”
“Twenty-two years after we started Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, a visit to the hospital never ceases to amaze me. The care that is given to the patients, the incredible research that goes on every day and the progress being made in so many different areas is just beyond words," Owen adds.
He continues, "One of the patients that stood out was a little girl who was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks after her mom passed away from cancer. As a father, I can’t imagine that. The little girl’s cancer came back four times, but she continues to fight.
At this year's seminar, Owen got some radio folks together with parents of children that are being helped by the hospital.
"One unique thing this year was for the first time, we had a new artist participate in the seminar who had actually been a patient at St. Jude. Darren Warren is a wonderful young guy who really wants to make a difference in the hospital. While he was on his tour, he ran into one of the nurses who took care of him and got to spend time with the doctor who treated him for three years," Owen says.
Country Cares for St. Jude Kids has now become one of the most successful radio fundraising events in the country, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in pledges for the hospital. At the event, Owen said, "This is not about Randy Owen. It’s about the whole industry to me. We do more than just play music -- we pay attention to our fellow man. It’s about St. Jude."
The vision of Danny Thomas so many years ago was to build a research hospital devoted to finding cures for children battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases. On Feb. 4, 1962, the hospital opened its doors, and since then, it has been instrumental in improving the overall survival rates for children with cancer. In addition, St. Jude treats patients with HIV, hematologic, immunologic or genetic diseases.
Owen says the country music community's dedication is very important in helping to continue the lifesaving mission of the hospital. For more information, visit St. Jude's official site.