Like millions of Americans, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds a treasured place in my heart. I've had countless great vacations and memories there. As a result, the tragic news about the wildfires that started Monday night (11/28) and roared through the Smokies foothills town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee hit me quite hard.
Two towns over is the town of Sevierville, the county seat of Sevier County. In addition to the nearby attractions, both natural and man-made, it's known as the birthplace of Dolly Parton.
|The statue of Dolly Parton in front of the|
county courthouse in Sevierville, TN.
c.2016 K.F. Raizor
In 1986 Parton purchased an interest in what was then Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge (the town between Sevierville and Gatlinburg), and the park was renamed "Dollywood." Other entertainment attractions bearing Parton's name include a sister water park (Dolly's Splash Country) and the Dixie Stampede, a dinner-and-a-show theater. Dollywood is the largest employer in Sevier County.
With these deep roots, it is no surprise that Parton released a statement Tuesday saying how hard the fires in and around Gatlinburg are hitting her emotionally. "I am heartbroken," she said.
Unlike so many others who have a part of the lovely towns in their hearts and memories thanks to vacations there, however, Parton's name ensures she can do much, much more.
Last last night (11/30) she announced the creation of the "My People" Fund (named after a play, Dolly Parton's My People, that ran at the theme park). The fund, she announced, will give $1,000 a month for six months to every family in the area who lost their homes to the wildfires.
"We want to provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires," Parton said in a video released to Knoxville news stations. "I know it has been a trying time for my people, and this assistance will help them back on their feet."
What can you say but "Wow."
Here's to Dolly! Thanks for being a positive light in the world (not just the entertainment world).