Monday, March 22, 2010

MACC and Grascals at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

In November of 2000 Mandy Adkins died of an inoperable brain-stem tumor.  Her parents, Darrel and Phyllis Adkins, who had promoted a festival called The Bluegrass Classic in Columbus, Ohio for many years, poured their devastation and grief into helping St. Jude Children's Research Hospital find a cure for childhood cancer.  In the years since, Musicians Against Childhood Cancer has donated $530,274.00 to St. Jude and the YMCA.  In the past few years The Grascals, this year's SPBGMA Band of the Year, and Randy Kohrs have become closely associated with the Adkins in this effort, and have visited St. Jude with them to view the facility and participate in the contribution ceremony.

Grascals Donate Takamine Guitars
MACC in July 2009
After SPBGMA the group, accompanied by country song writer and performer Dale Pyatt as well as friends Lynn and Brenda Butler traveled to Memphis to deliver a check for $30,000 as well as two guitars donated by the Takamine guitar company.  In Memphis, they visited with Clea Williamson of Target House, an apartment complex built by Target Stores to provide long-term housing for families whose children are undergoing treatment at St. Jude and research scientist Suzanne Baker, who gave them a tour of her laboratory. The two donated guitars have been placed in the Amy Grant Music Room at Target House for the use of young people who are staying there for treatment or to be with their sick child.

Clea Williamson of Target House
Accepts Takamine Guitars from
Jamie Johnson and Terry Eldredge of The Grascals
Also in Picture - Terry Smith, Randy Kohrs, Dale Pyatt

Dale Pyatt says, "Going to St. Jude's was quite the experience for me and my 11 year old daughter Jenna Marie.  We left Kentucky and drove all night to meet everybody. it was snowing and bad, lots of cars in the ditches, but we made it fine. We met up with Randy and the Grascals at the hospital and toured the chapel with Dr. Baker, and then she took us to her lab where she showed us how they study mice to learn the causes of cancer. She told us that any discoveries are shared with the world and that all the $$ that is raised by the MACC is used only in her lab for start up projects, so there is no waiting for $$. It takes $1,500,000 per day to operate St. Jude, and it was obvious they use that $$ wisely. One sponsor alone donated forty million dollars for a single wing. I had no idea just how big St.Jude is or how many people it takes care of.

Dr. Suzanne Baker in Her Lab
Dr. Baker Explains Microscope Slides to Randy Kohrs

Jamie Johnson, one of two lead singers for The Grascals, was so moved about his most recent visit to St. Jude that he has written a song called "I Am Strong" with his wife Suzanne Mumpower, and fiddler Jennee' Fleenor. Jamie says, "My visit to St Jude changed my life forever in many ways. First, I thank God for my health and my family's health everyday now! It may change tomorrow, but we are healthy today. Second, anyone in this world wants to see STRONG..go to St Jude's and watch these beautiful children fighting for their future! They don't see the end of their lives...they see the end of the cancer...and they see the playground and their friends and their mommies and daddies and brothers and sisters! I looked at the pictures the children wrote on the wall I was so inspired and taken by their thoughts that I translated the best I could in my words and song! Along with Susanne and Jenee, I am so proud and excited about our new song "I am Strong" And to be a small part in [seeking] the cure for childhood cancer!"  Comments like those of Jamie Johnson and Dale Pyatt suggest the depth of feeling and the power of the experience people have on visiting St. Jude, meeting the staff, and seeing the strength and courage of the stricken children.  Losing their daughter Mandy and seeing the quality of the science and compassion of the care given to both children and families has inspired Darrel and Phyllis Adkins to involve the bluegrass community and inspire these musicians to join the battle against childhood cancer through their performances at Musicians Against Childhood Cancer and their testimonials given in performances around the country. 

MACC Donates $30,000 for 2009
Top Row: Lynn Butler, Randy Kohrs, Terry Smith, Terry Eldredge, Dale Pyatt
Bottom Row: Brenda Butler, Phyliss Adkins, Suzanne Baker, Jamie Johnson, Jenna Pyatt, Darrel Adkins 
Photo courtesy of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

We are so thankful to have allies like Musicians Against Childhood Cancer in our battle against pediatric cancer and other deadly childhood diseases,” said Carrie Denning, regional director at ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “Their generosity and dedication to St. Jude helps the hospital continue its unique mission to conduct the groundbreaking research that will benefit children in communities everywhere."

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer will be held at the Hoover-Y Park in Columbus, Ohio this year from July 21st through July 24th.   Information about purchasing your partially tax deductible tickets can be found here.  This year's lineup has not yet been posted, but you can bet on its being one of the best and most interesting lineups presented in all bluegrass music.  Hope to see you there.

My thanks to Brenda Butler for supplying most of the pictures in this post.