Published on June 15, 2018
Nearly $400,000 Raised
Sharon and Kent Blazy
portrait by Jim McGuire, © 2008
When Alive’s President/CEO Anna-Gene O’Neal started planning the 25th anniversary showcase of Alive at the Bluebird, she knew it needed to be something really special, and she knew she needed a little help from friends. Over her six years at the helm, she has become a fixture at the series. She attends every show, both to support the songwriters who give of their time, but also to deliver an impassioned speech about how the money raised changes lives–at the end of life.
Alive at the Bluebird is not only our biggest annual fundraiser, it is also where our community comes together to share their deepest personal connections and memories with Alive. Over the years, many stories of love and loss have been shared by performers in the round, and, for the audience, the magnitude of Alive’s impact becomes visceral.
Anna-Gene’s plan for 2018 was hatched in a conversation with singer/songwriter Kent Blazy, who has become a friend over the years. Kent was a faithful supporter of Alive at the Bluebird from the start, but after his wife died in Alive’s care, he never missed the opportunity to participate. And when Anna-Gene called him in the fall, she made a bold request. It took only fifteen minutes for him to send her a text message that Garth Brooks had agreed to her request to headline a show with Kent.
Music City Magic
Months later, when Kent and Garth took the stage together, it was as though a circle had become complete. It was the 30th anniversary of their first songwriting session together, which produced a song they wrote for their wives about making the most of each day, and not missing the chance to say, “I love you.” That song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” became their first number-one hit.
Kent was ready to give up on Nashville back in 1988 and head home to Kentucky. Then he met Garth. The soon-to-be megastar musician was getting by on side hustles like selling boots and cleaning churches, when he pitched Kent a tune that had already been passed on by 25 others. They refined it together, and this time something resonated. Soon after that, in a lucky break at a Bluebird show, Garth played that song and the next day was signed to his first record deal.
Paying It Forward
When Alive at the Bluebird started up a few years later, Kent, then a regular Garth co-writer, become a frequent participant. He couldn’t have known yet, but he was already paying it forward. When his wife Sharon was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2004, he turned to Alive to make sure their remaining time together was peaceful.
To me, these people that do that are angels walking around on earth, with the service they provide. I just want to do everything I can to make people aware of what all they offer, and how grateful I am for what they have done for me.
“Alive Hospice came in the last six months, and really helped us to be able to move through the transition of her passing with ease, and helped me out to be able to go out and get groceries or to walk the dog,” Kent told Billboard magazine.
“To me, these people that do that are angels walking around on earth, with the service they provide. I just want to do everything I can to make people aware of what all they offer, and how grateful I am for what they have done for me,” he said.
Kent shared his experience with the Nashville Tennessean, which ran his story of Sharon on the front page. Other news outlets wanted the story, and Kent agreed to be interviewed multiple times during the month. Each time he expressed his deep gratitude to Alive Hospice. His generosity in sharing that tender story raised invaluable awareness of our mission to a broad, national audience. No amount of advertising could have that power.
We are incredibly grateful to the many talented musicians and generous donors who make ABB possible. Pat Alger, Tony Arata, Marc Beeson, Matraca Berg, Kent Blazy, Gary Burr, Kim Carnes, Bob DiPiero, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Mark Irwin, Fred Knobloch, Steve Seskin, and Victoria Shaw are among the amazing singer/songwriters who have been loyal supporters of this event.