Ashley McBryde, Jake Owen, Randy Owen and More Brake for St. Jude

Before Ashley McBryde established roots in Middle Tennessee for music, the Arkansas native once made Memphis her home where her standing gig on Wednesday nights was performing for families of patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the local Target House.

Even then, before McBryde was the Grammy-nominated artist she is today, she was contributing her time to one of country music’s top causes, St. Jude’s life-saving mission of eliminating childhood cancer.

Since founder Danny Thomas established the hospital in 1962, St. Jude has helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80%. For most of the facility’s over 50-year history, the country music community has supported St. Jude in insurmountable ways through the charity initiative, Country Cares for St. Jude Kids.

McBryde was one of the many country stars who returned to Memphis over the weekend for Country Cares’ 30th anniversary. Since its 1989 inception, the program has raised more than $800 million in what has become one of the most successful radio initiatives in country music history with nearly 200 participating stations nationwide. The Country Cares seminar has grown to become one of country music’s longstanding premiere events.

Throughout the seminar, artists and stations interact with patients, tour the hospital and learn more on how to grow St. Jude fundraising efforts throughout the year.

Founder Randy Owen received a plaque during a Saturday (Jan. 25) afternoon press conference, dedicating a new patient room in his name.

Later that evening, Owen and ALSAC president and CEO hosted the annual Songwriters’ Dinner that featured performances by Owen, Clint Black, Michael Ray and the 2019 Randy Owen Angels Among Us Award recipient, Jake Owen. Owen received the honor for his commitment to St. Jude through his annual hometown benefit in Vero Beach, Fla.

Other artists who participated over the weekend included LOCASH, Runaway June, King Calaway, Austin Burke, Matt Stell, Haley & Michaels, Jessie G, Waterloo Revival, Stephanie Quayle, Carlton Anderson, Brantley Gilbert, Brandon Radcliff, Hunter Hayes, Jordan Rager, Dillon Carmichael, Logan Ashley, Caylee Hammack, Brandon Lay, Rachel Wammack and Seaforth.

“Families never receive an invoice,” Gilbert said of what draws him to come back to St. Jude. “That to me is unprecedented. As a dad, I have a happy and healthy 14-month-old kid. We were blessed enough not to have to go through anything like [childhood cancer]. But with that being said, coming here, these kids are warriors. Some of these kids don’t know anything but fight. You get a positive feeling when you walk through the door, and you get a positive feeling reflected back.”

“I just think about my kids the whole time I’m here and thank God and our lucky stars that we haven’t had to go through anything like this,” LOCASH’s Preston Brust added. “It takes you home and makes you think of your whole family the whole time you’re here.”

Families of St. Jude patients never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food, and that care continues throughout a patient’s life. St. Jude freely shares the discoveries made at the hospital to help save thousands of children worldwide.

The 30th anniversary weekend marked the launch of St. Jude Inspire, the organization’s new shareable storytelling platform that brings to life the hospital’s ongoing mission through multimedia experiences.

To become a St. Jude supporter, visit the partner in hope website.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.