On Feb. 7 and 8, Taste of Country will assist more than a dozen country radio stations in raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital with a webathon/radiothon. Nearly $7 million has been raised during the previous five joint efforts, with much more raised from other TSM stations later in the year. We asked Kelly, the mother of popular St. Jude patient Caleb, to open the fundraiser with a letter to readers that explains what St. Jude and Country Cares have meant to her. Here's what she said:

Our son, Caleb, has been a patient at St. Jude for 17 years. Seventeen years ago, we were given a diagnosis of MPS 1- Hurler Syndrome for our 13-month-old little boy, and everything we read said that we would take our baby home and just wait for his disease to progress —  that he would die between the ages of five and 10. But then we went to see the geneticist and were told to go to St. Jude, because there was a doctor there doing bone marrow transplants. Though it wasn’t a cure, if successful, the bone marrow transplant would slow the progression of his disease in his body and stop the progression in his brain. It would give us hope. It would give us time.

And it did.

Life has not been easy, but with St. Jude there, Caleb has fought each battle and come out on the other side a warrior. Yes, he has had to face many surgeries and procedures over the years, but he goes into each one knowing that St. Jude is there to fight with him. This year has really been a year of reflection because our son, who was given a death sentence of five to 10 years when he was only 13 months old, just reached his 18th birthday. In looking back, I can see our HOPE being restored at St. Jude after the weight of the world was placed on our shoulders; I can see our FAITH being built, because we knew we were right where God led us; and I can see COURAGE radiating from Caleb every time he faces a new battle.

Courtesy of St. Jude

Those three words have defined our years here: HOPE, FAITH AND COURAGE. And now we can add TIME. Time that would not have been possible without St. Jude and Country Cares supporters. Time that has been filled with a lifetime of memories. Memories filled with Country Cares artists and music representatives. Memories of my very confident child standing on a chair and announcing to a room full of artists, “If you are famous, you need to line up right here in front of me!” Memories of Caleb deciding that he needed to bring pictures of himself to autograph for others. Memories of Kellie Pickler stealing a kiss and making him turn red. Memories of him cheating while playing board games and running through Connect 4 so fast, that he won three games before Randy Owen knew the object of the game! See, when Country Cares comes to St. Jude, they are not only bringing awareness of St. Jude to the world; they are also leaving behind an imprint on a child and their family.

I haven’t always liked looking forward to what the future may bring, but my heart smiles looking back at the time we have had and the memories that we have made. Living life to the fullest, because of St. Jude, because Country Cares!

2019 is the 30th anniversary of Country Cares, a program founded by Randy Owen that has led to hundreds of radio stations and artists working together to raise more than $800 million for the children's research hospital. Cure rates for the six most common forms of childhood cancer have soared to 80 percent in that time. Two-hundred stations nationwide will participate this year. No family ever gets a bill for anything at St. Jude. 

Country Artists at St. Jude Through the Years

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