Music lovers and philanthropists gather to support children with cancer

St. Jude Presents: Music City Hit-Makers, Where Song Meets Symphony, hosted by St. Jude Children’s Hospital, will have its inaugural night in Waco at 6:00 p.m. today at the Hippodrome. The soon-to-be annual charity event will feature Nashville songwriters Brett James and Billy Montana backed by symphony musicians from Waco. Academy of Country Music award winner Charles Judge will be the musical director for the evening.

The event tonight will be the first stop of a three-city tour through Waco; Tulsa, Okla.; and Louisville, Ky. Coordinator Bonnie Holman said Waco was chosen as part of the tour in part because of country music radio station Waco 100’s partnership with St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

James, who attended Baylor in the early 1990s, wrote and won a Grammy Award for “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” which was recorded by Carrie Underwood. He has also written for Kenny Chesney, Kelly Clarkson and the Backstreet Boys. Event coordinator Bonnie Holman said guests can expect him to perform these and other song at tonight’s event.

Montana has also had an illustrious career in country music, penning Garth Brooks’s hit “More Than a Memory” as well as songs by Sara Evans and the television show “Nashville.”

“We are partnering with singer-songwriters from Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a unique music experience,” said Bonnie Holman, a coordinator for the event. “We’re just looking to expand into a new market for support for St. Jude.”

All the proceeds from tickets and auction items will go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Holman said two local patients of the hospital will also be present at the event to share their stories.

While about 150 tickets have been sold already, Holman said guests will still be welcome to buy tickets at the door tonight.

St. Jude Children’s Hospital was started in 1962 by an entertainer named Danny Thomas. Over a decade earlier, in a time of great distress, Thomas prayed to St. Jude Thadeus, the patron saint of lost causes, to give him direction.

“Help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine,” Thomas said.

After achieving incredible success in his career as an entertainer, Thomas held true to his word and created St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

St. Jude is focused primarily on helping children battling cancer or other deadly diseases. The hospital functions mainly from public donations. Over 75 percent of their funding comes from public contributions from benefits like the one being hosted at the Hippodrome. Because of the generous public donations, St. Jude is able to help children battling cancer without imposing a charge on their families.

Delta Delta Delta has partnered with the St. Jude Children’s Hospital since 1999, when the sorority adopted it as their philanthropy. The Beta Tau chapter of Baylor has raised over $31 million for the hospital and continues to raise money for them through their annual fundraisers.

“The main thing that’s incredible is that families don’t pay anything for treatment,” said Fort Collins, Colo., senior Payton Gray, president of Delta Delta Delta. “And that doesn’t just include medical treatment. It’s their food, housing, and travel, and that makes them unique from other facilities.”

Gray said St. Jude is also unique because it shares all of its research information freely with other hospitals.

“They are super cooperative with anyone with their information and services, and I think that’s what really makes them special,” Gray said.

Although Delta Delta Delta is not affiliated with the Music City Hit-Makers event, the sorority’s is still getting involved. Thirty of their members will volunteer at the Hippodrome Tuesday night.

“I think it’s really beneficial just getting the word out about St. Jude and the incredible work they do,” Gray said. “It’s good to appeal to the entire Waco community. We try to do that a lot with our stuff on campus.”

Gray said the benefit concert is a great way to reach new circles of people, like music lovers, and get them involved in St. Jude’s cause.

“An event like this appeals to more demographics and helps with getting the word out,” Gray said.

Individual tickets for the event are priced at $100, and a VIP table for 10 costs $1500. In addition to drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction will be held from 6-7 p.m and the concert will start at 7 p.m. All of the proceeds from the event, including the silent auction, will go to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital.