If everything Dolly Parton has done for the folks back home in East Tennessee doesn’t qualify her for proverbial sainthood, then something is seriously wrong.
So far, a total of almost $9 million has been raised for her My People Fund, which will provide monthly $1,000 donations for six months to Sevier County residents who have been displaced by the East Tennessee wildfires. The total includes funds raised online through the Dollywood Foundation website along with Tuesday’s (Dec. 13) Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund telethon.
The night included big check donations from Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Paul Simon, Chris Stapleton and Chris Young. The Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Association and CMT also contributed to the fund.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who have donated from all over the country and to my friends who donated their time, their talent and money for my people,” Parton explained. “The response has been so overwhelming that we haven’t been able to count all of the donations yet.”
The total amount raised is expected to rise as mail donations are counted and the telethon is rebroadcast to new audiences over the next five days.
Direct donations to the My People Fund are still being accepted through the Dollywood Foundation website. For those wishing to send donations via mail, those contributions should be sent to: My People Fund, c/o Dollywood Foundation, 111 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. Donations are also being accepted by texting DOLLY to 501501 for a onetime $10 donation or DOLLY25 to 501501 for a onetime $25 donation. Messaging and data rates will apply.
CMT’s pro-social initiative, CMT One Country, continues to support the American Red Cross in their efforts to provide disaster relief to those affected by the wildfires. Donate $10 directly to the Red Cross by texting 90999. Volunteer opportunities nationwide are also available through the CMT One Country website.
Tuesday’s (Dec. 13) three-hour television event was simulcast across multiple networks and online with performances by Alabama, Big & Rich, Amy Grant, Chris Janson, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Aaron Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, LOCASH, Reba McEntire, Don McLean, Montgomery Gentry, Kenny Rogers, Michael W. Smith, Chris Stapleton, Rhonda Vincent, Hank Williams, Jr. and Chris Young.
Steve Harvey, Larry King, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie Underwood and Today’s Willie Geist were among the public figures who shared video messages throughout the night.
Working the phones were at least 30 celebrities, including Nashville’s Charles Esten.
According to Knoxville’s WBIR-TV, the wildfires caused more than $500 million in damage to private and commercial properties in Sevier County. Fourteen people died in the firestorm, which took out 17,136 acres and destroyed, damaged or affected roughly 2,460 structures across Sevier County.
Two juveniles have been arrested on aggravated arson charges and are being held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center.