Martina McBride and Randy Owen led a list of stars who played for a special audience at the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday night. Each performed and met with families for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on a night that recognized Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, the country music fundraising arm co-founded by Owen 26 years ago.

Steve Wariner, Love and Theft, the Del McCoury Band and Chris Janson were among the acts on the lineup. Janson also met with St. Jude families before taking the stage. Later he'd sing a song called "Hang On" to recognize the moment and the struggles. Many kids who visit St. Jude are in need of life-saving treatment to beat cancer or other pediatric illnesses.

“I think that struggles are just another door to open up to something better," Janson, a man who until recently has known nothing but professional struggles, told Taste of Country and other select media in talking about the uplifting song. He also performed his hit "Buy Me a Boat" and talked about the importance of family.

“My life and my wife’s life revolves around our kids."

Wariner has been a part of Country Cares for almost as long as Owen, and he says he has a special place in his heart for the Alabama singer because of that. He recalled visiting children's hospitals early in his 35-year-long career, just to put smiles on faces.

Chris Hollo

“I would load up my pockets with some magic stuff and go in there and do magic for the kids,” he says. “Those kids are sick, they really don’t care about your records or if you’re Top 10 or how many No. 1s you’ve had.”

He's right, but the Opry audience certainly appreciated seeing him perform. He sang his hit "Holes in the Floor of Heaven," while McBride performed her inspiring hit "I'm Gonna Love You Through It." Earlier she admitted she doesn't look too deep in the audience while singing that song, as she prefers to focus on the positivity and hope it brings. Seeing a man and his wife tear up would knock her off the song.

Owen has been the driving force and face of Country Cares since founder Danny Thomas approached him saying "I need your people" more than 25 years ago. He says it took all of one year for him to be all-in, and these days, visiting with kids provides a high that no new song — even those found on Alabama's new Southern Drawl album, out Sept. 18 — can match. When he entered the building, he literally jumped for joy upon seeing Mack, a 6-year-old patient and special guest. Two-year-old Harper and 12-year-old Ally were also special dignitaries on this night, and each received a box of gifts from Owen and the Opry family.

“I look at my healthy grandkids and think, ‘Thank God they’re healthy,’" Owen shares. Three of them joined him on stage during "As Long as There's Love," a song written on their behalf.

"And I know there are people, doctors and medical experts working as we speak because of donations made to St. Jude, on that next mountain that we wanna climb. That missing link that we’re looking for that’s what will solve this issue with this horrible cancer or whatever it may be.”

A portion of all proceeds from tickets sold for Tuesday night's Opry performance will be donated to Country Kids for St. Jude Kids. It's part of the Opry's "Cause for Applause" for September.