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Rewind 2011: No. 2 – Country Stars Raise Money for Tornado Victims

Taylor Swift on stage during her Speak Now...Help Now benefit concert at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN on May 21, 2011. Photo credit Christie Goodwin.

When tornadoes ravaged the southeast in the spring, country stars picked up their guitars and went to work, raising money through a series of concerts and benefits to aid recovery and relief efforts. Tornadoes struck seven states in the South, killing 329 people and destroying entire communities.

Alabama spearheaded ‘BAMA RISING: A Benefit Concert for Alabama Tornado Recovery’ at Birmingham’s BJCC Arena on June 14 for Alabama tornado victims. The concert raised funds for relief efforts and featured performance from Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Kellie Pickler, Sara Evans and Darius Rucker, just to name a few. There was also an online auction component. The benefit raised more than $2 million for tornado relief efforts.

“We are so thankful that the show was a huge success and that we’re going to be able to do positive things to help those that the storm hurt so badly,” Randy Owen said. “The response has been incredible, and it’s a real tribute to the people of Alabama to see them helping their fellow Alabamians.”

Taylor Swift also pitched in, making the decision to open the doors of her final dress rehearsal for the North American leg of her Speak Now World Tour to fans as a fundraiser. One hundred percent of ticket sales from the Speak Now… Help Now show went directly to help tornado victims. Taylor expanded her fundraising efforts by streaming two performances during the Speak Now … Help Now benefit event.

View Taylor Swift’s Speak Now… Help Now photo gallery »

“I was watching the coverage of the tornadoes backstage at rehearsals, and I wanted to do something for the families affected by the damage,” Taylor said. “I’ve never opened a rehearsal to the public before, but I felt that inviting my fans to the last rehearsal for the Speak Now Tour would be a great way to raise money.”

Taylor’s Speak Now… Help Now show raised more than $750,000.

Kenny Chesney also got in on the action, making the decision to donate his fees from his Goin’ Coastal Tour stop in Tuscaloosa, AL on May 25 to, a clearing house for Tuscaloosa-area charities and services founded to aid in the recovery process. Kenny’s management team and booking representatives also donated their fees. Kenny nearly cancelled the date, but was encouraged by Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox to let the show go on.

“When we first heard about this tragedy we were stunned, as we have so many fans in the area and have enjoyed every visit that we’ve made there over the years,” Kenny said. “But Mayor Maddox convinced us that this is a great opportunity to bring the people of Tuscaloosa together in a positive way, and we are grateful for the opportunity to help them in this way.”

Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire also teamed up to raise money to help with recovery efforts. The pair raised $500,000 for Oklahoma tornado victims during their two sold-out Tornado Relief Concerts held May 25 and 26 in Durant, Oklahoma.


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