The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Donate & volunteer

June 24, 2011

DONATE: Branson performers plan telethon for tornado victims

BRANSON Mo. — About a year ago, friends and family of Branson performer Carrie April Tillis suffered property damage when the banks of the Cumberland River could not hold the river’s surging waters. The resulting flood waters killed 21 in Tennessee, destroyed homes and businesses, and saturated legendary Nashville attractions, such as the Grand Ole Opry House.

Though Tillis, a Nashville resident, was spared, many of her musician friends lost everything.

But the first thing they wanted to do was perform.

“If you’re one of the ones who survive, that instinct, that sixth sense kicks in,” she said. “You want to help any way you can. A lot of artists were hardest hit, but those were the first people who said, ‘Let’s do (benefit) concerts.’”

Tillis and Branson artists Jim Stafford and Shoji Tabuchi will host such a show featuring virtually every major performer in Branson. The Branson Cares Telethon will raise funds for recovery efforts from the May 22 tornado.

The three hosts visited Joplin Wednesday to survey damage and record interviews for the telethon.

The telethon will be shown live from the Mansion Theatre, and will be televised from 7 to 10 p.m. locally on KOAM-TV and KFJX-TV.

But the reach of the telethon will go much further. Cindy Merry, marketing chair for the Branson Show League, said the telethon will be broadcast on RFD-TV and on TV stations in Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Wichita and across numerous radio stations.

Merry said that Danny Thomas, of KOAM, helped pinpoint two beneficiaries for the telethon. Proceeds will benefit recovery efforts for St. John’s Regional Medical Center and music programs at Joplin Schools.

Those two areas seemed perfectly suited for the telethon, Merry said.

“(St. John’s) immediately struck us, because they have 2,200 employees,” Merry said. “That’s 2,200 families, and the hospital is committed to them by keeping everyone employed. That’s a huge thing for a non-profit to do.”

And the selection of Joplin’s musical students was also easy, considering how Branson’s economic engine is fueled by the sounds of guitars, violins and voices. Among the damage to Joplin High School was the loss of sheet music and band instruments, owned by either students or the school.

“There’s such a vast need in almost every area you can name,” Stafford said. “Branson is a town founded on music, and we seem to gravitate toward knowing that those kids need to have music back.”

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Tornado: Donate & volunteer