LeAnn Rimes has seen firsthand that the best thing about the Academy of Country Music/The Home Depot Humanitarian Award is that the ultimate recipients are always the people who need it most. At the ACM Awards in April, she accepted a crystal trophy in recognition of her humanitarian efforts. Earlier this month, children in Murfreesboro, Tenn., received the most important part of the award when Rimes and other volunteers showed up to construct a new playground in her honor.
With the playground construction part of the Humanitarian Award, Rimes decided it would be best to build it at the Spring Valley Apartments in Murfreesboro, a community located approximately 35 miles southeast of Nashville.
“I wanted to do Murfreesboro because of the tornadoes that came through here this year,” Rimes told CMT Insider during an interview at the playground site. “It was right next to home, right in Nashville, so I figured why not keep it right here locally and bring these kids some joy where they really had a lot of tragedy.”
Tornadoes that hit the area in April killed two people and injured more than 50 others. With approximately 800 homes hit by high winds, the storms caused more than $38 million in damage.
“These kids have been playing on very unsafe playground equipment, and we had about 250 volunteers out here,” Rimes said. “Most of them are Home Depot employees that have taken one of their days off to come out here and volunteer.”
Rimes’ humanitarian efforts include serving as international spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network (which provides medical care to children) and supporting Camp C.O.P.E. (a service that teaches the children of wounded veterans to deal with their parents’ altered lives). She also financed construction of the LeAnn Rimes Adventure Gym at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville by contributing royalties from her 2000 hit single, “I Need You.”
Previous recipients of the ACM/The Home Depot Humanitarian Award include Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Neal McCoy, Martina McBride, Lonestar and Reba McEntire. The playgrounds are constructed in a partnership with KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building safe places to play within walking distance of every child in America.
“It really is gratifying,” Rimes said. “I mean, this is the best part of my job — and especially when it involves children — to see their life change and their faces light up. They really are so excited to come out here and to be part of this event and have this new playground. … I’m not a celebrity when it comes to these kinds of things. I’m just a human being, and to lend a helping hand and just put a smile on a kid’s face is really what it’s all about.”