February 18, 2000

Cancer benefit rocks Rockies for research

Featured Image

At Country in the Rockies, Dr. Harold Moses and Frances Williams Preston unveiled a rendering of the newly named Frances Williams Preston Building. (photo by Cynthia Manley)

Cancer benefit rocks Rockies for research

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — As fresh powder piled up on the slopes outside, funds flowed for cancer research inside as country music and skiing came together once again to support the work of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Nearly 300 people gathered in this southwestern Colorado resort town Feb. 9-13 for the sixth annual Country in the Rockies, a celebrity ski-and-music event to raise money for the T.J. Martell Foundation and the foundation's Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the VICC.

"This is really a wonderful thing, to see that this group of people thinks the work we're doing is important and that they support us," said Lynn Matrisian, PhD, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, a first-time Country in the Rockies participant. "It's an important message for our research team to hear. It's very invigorating."

Featuring celebrity ski races, concerts, and silent and live auctions, the event is expected to have raised more than $250,000 for innovative research in breast, prostate, ovarian, lung and colon cancer. The popular and fiercely competitive celebrity bartending contest alone brought in more than $45,000 — almost double last year's take.

From start to finish, this year's event very much celebrated the strong bond between the VICC and the country music industry, and particularly with Preston, presidnet and CEO of performing rights organization BMI.

Opening night festivities included the announcement that Vanderbilt's Medical Research Building II, the focal point for the VICC's research, will be named for Preston, who is also a member of the VICC board and president of the Martell board. The honor is supported by a $10 million gift from Martell, combined with an additional $6 million anonymous gift.

The highlight of closing night was a video about the VICC's research that featured the emotional stories of John Mattea, father of country artist Kathy Mattea, and Van Stephenson, member of the group Blackhawk. Kathy Mattea and Blackhawk have been central figures in Country in the Rockies since its inception.

Stephenson and John Mattea are battling cancer and have undergone investigational treatments at the VICC. The room erupted in applause when the news was revealed in a kicker ending to the video that Stephenson has responded remarkably well to therapy so far.

"One of things that Kathy said in the video is very true," Moses told the group. "If the research 10, 15, 20 years ago had not been supported, the treatments that her father has undergone would not be available.

"Your support and generosity is critical. We thank you."

Next month, the organizing committee will begin its work to plan the seventh annual event, set for Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2001. They will have their work cut out for them, Moses said. "Every year, we think we can't top this, but every year, it gets better and better," he said. "I am so appreciative of the many, many hours of hard work by many people that goes into this every year."

Artists who participated in this year's event included Aaron Barker, John Berry, Blackhawk, Suzy Bogguss, Gary Chapman, Dave Gibson, Billy Dean, Skip Ewing, Robert Earl Keen, Delbert McClinton, Jenny Simpson, Mindy McCready, Gary Morris, Lari White, Pam Tillis and Chely Wright.

Corporate sponsors of the event included American Airlines, BMI, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Arthur Andersen, Bank of America, Blue Hat Records, Cal IV Entertainment, Curb, EMI Christian Music Group/Virgin Records, Entertainment Travel, First American/AmSouth, Gaylord Entertainment, The Hadden Group, Mercury Records, Neptune Enterprises Inc., O'Charley's, Preston Productions, RCA Label Group, Red Stripe Beer, Sony Music, Sprint, Warner Music Group, and Yamaha.