Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Academy of Country Music & Country Music Association all pledge large donations prior to start of telethon
Nearly $500,000 of donations already have been committed before the "Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund" telethon has even started. The telethon, which will be broadcast on GAC, AXS-TV, RFD and The Heartland Network at 8 p.m. (EST), already has received pledges from Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
The ACM donated $100,000 to the fund, with Taylor Swift matching the amount, while the CMA donated $125,000 accompanied by a matching donation by East Tennessean Kenny Chesney.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam will make a special appearance during the telethon, which has grown to include a star-studded lineup of performers and phone bank operators. All of the celebrities are donating their time to help the effort.
"The donations that are already coming in are so special to me," event host Dolly Parton explained. "It means there are a lot of people behind us and ready to help us. There is still so much need to support the people of the Smoky Mountains, but thanks to Taylor and Kenny and both the ACM and CMA for gettin' us started with such huge donations."
While the telethon is off to a good start, the need for funds is much greater. More than 1,300 families have been displaced due to the wildfires that spread across Parton's home area of Sevier County, Tennessee, in late November. The entertainment icon established the Dollywood Foundation My People Fund to provide $1,000 each month for six months to every family who lost a primary residence. Currently, the monthly pledge is in excess of $1.3 million each month.
Artists donating their performances to the effort include: Parton, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, Alison Krauss, Michael W. Smith, Chris Janson, Big & Rich, LOCASH, Chris Young, Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, Cyndi Lauper, Don McLean, Amy Grant, Alabama, Aaron Lewis and Rhonda Vincent.
Although Parton will be hosting the overall telethon, friends HLN's Robin Meade, GAC's Suzanne Alexander and Nan Kelly, "The Bobby Bones Show's" Bobby Bones, SiriusXM's Storme Warren, "Crook & Chase" hosts Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase, "NASH Nights LIVE's" Shaun Parr and Elaina D. Smith, and TuneIn "Country Roads' " Kelly Sutton will share hosting duties throughout the three-hour broadcast.
Celebrities donating their time to answer phones include: Paula Deen and her sons, Bobby and Jamie; "Chrisley Knows Best" cast members Todd, Julie and Savannah; "Moonshiners" cast members Mark and Digger; "Nashville's" Charles Esten; cast members of "Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors"; country hitmakers Chris & Morgane Stapleton, Terri Clark, Mark Wills, Lee Greenwood, Larry Gatlin, T.G. Sheppard, Highway 101's Paulette Carlson, John Conlee, Ronnie McDowell, Kristian Bush, Tim Rushlow and T. Graham Brown; Parton's nieces, Rebecca Seaver and Danielle Parton; bluegrass hitmakers Lorraine Jordan and Darrin Vincent; comedian Henry Cho; KC of KC and the Sunshine Band; hot new country artists Brett Young, Cassadee Pope, RaeLynn, Danielle Bradbury, Lucas Hoge and Denny Strickland; songwriter Becky Hobbs; and members of the Tennessee Titans.
Several other celebrities are sharing special video messages during the telethon, including: Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Larry King, Steve Harvey, "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and "Today" anchor Willie Geist.
"Smoky Mountains Rise" also will be simulcast across multiple radio chains, including iHeart Media's digital and select on-air platforms, Cumulus Media's "NASH Nights LIVE," TuneIn's "Country Roads" channel, RURAL Radio on SiriusXM plus cross-promotion on The Highway, Prime Country, Y2Kountry and The Garth Channel, CBS Radio, ABC Radio Networks, and several other platforms.
All of the artists are donating their performances to help the effort. USAToday.com and USA Today National Networks will live stream the telethon on their affiliate newspaper websites, including all Tennessee newspaper sites (Tennessean.com,Knoxnews.com,commercialappeal.com,jacksonsun.com,theleafchronicle.com,dnj.com, and others).
The My People Fund will provide $1,000 each month to Sevier County families whose homes are uninhabitable or were completely destroyed in the recent Smoky Mountain wildfires. Any family who lost a primary residence (renters and homeowners) due to the wildfires in Sevier County will be eligible. A pre-application for those affected is available at dollywoodfoundation.org.
During the telethon, viewers will be asked to call 1-866-CARE MORE to donate to the My People Fund.
Anyone who would like to make a contribution to the My People Fund may visit dollywoodfoundation.org. 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.
Help the Dollywood Foundation share the word about this effort by using the hashtags #MyPeopleFund and #someplacespecial.