Alabama's Randy Owen started Country Cares for St. Jude Kids 30 years ago, as a way to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which offers free medical care for children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. To date, Country Cares has raised more than $800 million, but Owen believes the next generation of artists can do better – much better.
"I'd like to see it at least $800 million, past what we did," Owen shared with PopCulture.com and other media. "I'd love to see people do it better. We did good, but these younger kids can do it better than we did. Because of basically social media, I think they can do an even more incredible job, so I'm looking forward to that. I won't be here, but I'll be looking down. I think it's great possibilities, if they keep their heart right, and be honest and care about the cause. Really care about that little kid that's one of our patients, and that family and those grandparents and sisters and brothers that's left back home."
When Country Cares began in 1989, Owen raised money the old-fashioned way: by making phone calls and visiting radio stations, even at the height of Alabama's success, all for St. Jude. Still, while Owen might have been the face of Country Cares, it's his family who he believes made it the success it is today.
"I'm very proud of my family," Owen boasted. "They did nothing but encourage me. And my wife could have whined ... she was there to encourage me. My children never said one negative word about 'Daddy, why are we not going fishing today?' They'd sit ,and I'd be on the phone talking to radio stations and magazines and stuff about Country Cares."
The 69-year-old knows that eventually he won't be able to continue the work of Country Cares, but he trusts the country music community to follow his lead.
"What I'm really looking at is a year to year person," Owen revealed. "Somebody as dedicated about what I did for years and years when I was relevant on country radio, I don't think I would ask anybody to do that. That's just a huge undertaking. "Being willing to sacrifice a No. 1 record because the radio station across town didn't do Country Cares – I was willing to do that. And I don't know how many No. 1 records it cost the group Alabama, but it was a few. And I'm not sad about that.
"You have to be willing to go with your heart and do what you think is the right thing to do, which is helping the kids at St. Jude," he continued. "So the answer I guess, is, I think that I would like to see [a] person go a year at a time, until, it could be some magic. And that magic shows up, might be a permanent thing."
As for Owen, his biggest accomplishment, at least according to him, isn't Alabama's chart success or album sales, but the money he raised for St. Jude.
"I'm just proud that I did follow my heart," Owen stated. "And I still do. I've never changed, I've never said 'Hey this, big me, this is the way to do it.' I just feel like that if you really follow your heart, you're really honest about everything, more than likely, it's going to turn out to be something pretty good. Because basically all of us are created with good hearts."
Owen received a room at St. Jude named after him, in honor of his 30 years of sacrifice with Country Cares. Jake Owen was this year's recipient of the Angels Among Us Award, honoring his numerous charitable contributions to St. Jude. For more information, or to make a donation, visit stjude.org.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Jude