Country Stars Step Up to the Plate For City of Hope
American Idol winners, rising stars and country veterans all came together during a hectic CMA Fest week on Saturday (June 9) for the 2018 City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game. Since its inception in 1990, the event has been shining a spotlight on the organization that raises money for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and is one many artists are humbled to be a part of.
For Jackie Lee, the event holds personal resonance following his two-year battle with testicular cancer that is now in remission. He sadly lost his mother LaDonna Glee Midkiff to the disease in 2016.
“Being a cancer survivor myself trying to strike out cancer, I know everyone here wants that,” Lee tells Taste of Country and other media prior to the game, saying that he “feels great” since overcoming the disease.
“When you're going through chemo and you first hear that you have cancer, it's a very lonely feeling. I hope today brings awareness to let people know they're not alone and that we're playing on behalf of them.”
Newcomers Jordan Walker and Johnny McGuire of duo Walker McGuire were in charge of the kick-off coin toss, revealing that they were eager to participate in another event that expands their charitable resume. “We want to be a part of every single great cause that the music industry is a part of,” Walker says of the duo, who are also proud supporters of St. Jude. “This is awesome to see all of our friends here supporting it and trying to help mankind as much as we can.”
Newly crowned American Idol champ Maddie Poppe was playing for Team Grand Ole Opry with boyfriend and runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson, and the couple says they’re thankful that their newfound fame allows them to contribute to causes in such a positive way, viewing it as a token of gratitude to the people who catapulted their careers.
"I think it's really cool that we have this platform now that we can do stuff like this,” Poppe notes. “I think it's important to use the opportunities that we've been given to help out with stuff like this. It's kind of like paying back to everyone who supported us.”
Both Lucas Hoge and Smithfield took to the field as a way to honor the people in their lives who have experienced cancer. Hoge’s mother is a 15-year breast cancer survivor and has friends who are currently battling the disease, while both Jennifer Fielder and Trey Smith of Smithfield lost a grandfather to cancer.
"The City of Hope event is one that's near and dear to my heart,” says Hoge. “It's cool for me to be here and be able represent all of them and hopefully we can all say 'We got through cancer.' We can get through cancer together.”
The event also united leukemia survivor Brian Lambert of Warner Music Nashville with the donor who helped save his life. Team Grand Ole Opry were declared the winners over Team iHeart with a final score of 6-5.
Check Out Pictures From CMA Fest 2018