February 11, 2005

Cancer fight hits the slopes at Country in the Rockies

Featured Image

On hand after a video presentation highlighting the Martin family’s experiences with cancer were, from left, Hal Moses, Ray DuBois, Kevin and Linda Martin, Frances Preston and Orrin Ingram.
photo by Kay Williams

Cancer fight hits the slopes
at Country in the Rockies

Kathy Mattea, right, and Suzy Bogguss after a ski run at Country in the Rockies.
photo by Alan Mayor

Kathy Mattea, right, and Suzy Bogguss after a ski run at Country in the Rockies.
photo by Alan Mayor

From left, Don Darnell, Lisa Harless of AmSouth Bank, Margaret Darnell, Big Kenny and John Rich. The Darnells were presented a truck by Chevrolet, one of the sponsors of this year’s event.
photo by Alan Mayor

From left, Don Darnell, Lisa Harless of AmSouth Bank, Margaret Darnell, Big Kenny and John Rich. The Darnells were presented a truck by Chevrolet, one of the sponsors of this year’s event.
photo by Alan Mayor

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — The mission to “change and save lives” was front and center as Country in the Rockies XI hit this Rocky Mountain resort last week.

The annual signature fund-raising event for the T.J. Martell Foundation's Nashville division brought music fans to this Rocky Mountain ski resort for a week of mingling with artists and songwriters on the slopes, in the Club Med Theater and in late-night guitar pulls. Proceeds from the event support innovative research in the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Participants saw first-hand the impact that cancer has on families — and the importance of the research that their generosity supports — as they got to know Kevin and Linda Martin and Don and Margaret Darnell, guests of the event. Kevin has advanced colon cancer as the result of an inherited condition called FAP; one of their five children is known to have inherited the condition. The Darnell’s daughter, Katie, who died of brain cancer in 2003, gained fame for her song “Rescue Me,” recorded by John Rich of Big & Rich and Wynonna Judd.

“I think this has been the best ever; this week has just been so full of heart,” said Kathy Mattea, a founding Country in the Rockies artist who lost her father to cancer and who recently joined Vanderbilt-Ingram's Board of Overseers.

Musical highlights of the event included concerts in the Club Med Theater by Charlie Daniels, Kenny Loggins, Jamie O'Neal and Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and other members of the “MuzikMafia.”

The week was punctuated by an emotional video highlighting The Martin 7, as the Goodlettsville family is known, a winning performance by Kevin Martin and his ski race teammates, and the presentation of a Chevy truck to the Darnells, who joined Big & Rich on the stage.

“She loved y'all,” Katie's mother said to Big Kenny and John Rich, who befriended Katie during a visit to patients at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. “We took her to the prom, but Mr. Darnell, you should know that I didn't kiss her,” Rich joked.

The duo then performed the song that led Katie to the White House to perform for President Bush as a Children's Miracle Network ambassador and to appearances on the Today Show and The View. (To learn more about Katie's story, see the VUMC Reporter online, www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter, Feb. 9, 2001; April 13, 2001; and June 20, 2003)

As for the Martins, they embraced all that Country in the Rockies has to offer with the same tenacity and enthusiasm with which they are attacking Kevin's cancer. Skiing, riding snow mobiles, horseback riding, cocktail social hours, concerts and late-night guitar pulls — if something fun was going on, the Martins were there. Their motto: We can sleep when we get home.

“This has been the most awesome week of our lives,” Linda Martin said. “We can't thank everyone enough for what you're doing for my family and other families with cancer.” (You can read the Martins' first-hand account of their trip at www.caringbridge.org/tn/kevinmartin).

Other highlights of the event:

• Contributions of time and talent by other artists and songwriters, including Deborah Allen, Aaron Barker, Casey Beathard, Suzy Bogguss, Chuck Cannon, Gary Chapman, Cowboy Troy (MuzikMafia), Doug Crider, Dean Dillon, Bob DiPiero, Kelly Donovan, Scotty Emerick, Doug Johnson, Robert Earl Keen, Rachel Cise (MuzikMafia), Crosby Loggins, Gary Morris, Frank Myers, Jon Nicholson, James Otto (MusikMafia), Paul Overstreet, Leslie Satcher, Jeffrey Steele, Jon Vezner, Lari White and Wayne Wong.

• A growing list of nearly 50 corporate, media and musical sponsors and associate partners that included founding sponsor BMI and presenting sponsors Chevrolet and Club Med.

• A record-setting 410 participants, almost 140 of them newcomers.

• Auction of a limited edition Z-06 Corvette for more than $110,000.

• A “Cocoa for the Cure” sale by children of the artists and participants that brought in more than $32,000, with the help of a match from Dunkin' Donuts.

• A dance party featuring the sounds of Vanderbilt Medical Center's own Soul Incision, which gave the artists a welcome break in their year-round routine of performing. “We actually got to dance last night,” said Mattea's husband, Jon Vezner.

A large group from VUMC and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center attended the event to express their gratitude in person and to answer questions about the work supported by the Martell Foundation and Country in the Rockies.

“So much of what we've accomplished wouldn't be possible without Country in the Rockies,” said Ray DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., making his second Country in the Rockies appearance and his first since becoming Vanderbilt-Ingram's director on Jan. 1. “We are very grateful to everyone who attends and especially to everyone who works so hard to make it a success, including all of the artists — many of whom have volunteered their time and talents for years — and the staff and volunteers for the Martell Foundation.”

Support from the Martell Foundation is invested in ground-breaking research that is considered “high-risk” because it is so novel but that holds the promise for substantial payoff if it works, explained Hal Moses, M.D., Vanderbilt-Ingram's director emeritus and director of the Preston Laboratories. That, added Orrin Ingram, chair of Vanderbilt-Ingram's Board of Overseers, has led to incredible return on investment — Martell's investment of about $14 million since 1993 has been leveraged into more than $100 million from the National Institutes of Health and other funding sources.

On opening night, Country in the Rockies founder Frances Williams Preston announced that Moses had stepped down as Vanderbilt-Ingram director at the end of 2004. The former CEO and president of music rights organization BMI was quick to point out that he had not retired but instead is continuing the most important of work — research in the Preston Labs. “We just couldn't let him get away,” Preston said.

Others in attendance from Vanderbilt: Reid Thompson, M.D.; Joseph Smith, M.D.; Lorraine Ware, M.D.; Soul Incision members Wright Pinson, M.D., Norman Urmy, Deb Kemp, Steve Smartt, Jeff and Carol Byrd, Ed Schultz and Bryan Brand; Rick Wagers, Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D.; Peter Buerhaus; Ph.D.; Mel Bass; Anne Washburn; Alesia Davenport; Michele Steiner; Cheryl Chunn; and Susie Lyons.

To learn more about Country in the Rockies, view photos or see the full list of sponsors, visit www.citr.org.