Q&A with Dolly Parton: Why is it ‘personal’ for you to help all of the people affected by the wildfires?

SEVIER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Tuesday night, millions of dollars were raised to help victims of the wildfires that ravaged Sevier County’s Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, killing 14 people.

Nearly, 1400 homes, 2500 structures and 17,000 acres were destroyed and it’s estimated the fires caused $500 million in damage.

Firefighters from around the region traveled to Gatlinburg and Sevierville to fight the fires. (National Park Service)
Firefighters from around the region traveled to Gatlinburg and Sevierville to fight the fires. (National Park Service)

Dolly Parton and her friends held a telethon called Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund. Their goal: To provide $1,000 a month for 6 months for families whose homes were destroyed.

Dolly grew up in the area affected by the wildfires, so the benefit is really close to her heart. Also, many of the residents of Sevier County work in the tourism industry.

Wes Ramey, public relations manager for the Dollywood Company said, “Tourism is the economic engine of Sevier County. So the mayors, everyone — they’re encouraging everyone to come and visit. Whether it’s Dollywood or Ober Gatlinburg or Ripley’s in Gatlinburg — all the mom and pop shops.”

What’s the best way you can help?

Even though the telethon is over, you can still find ways to donate at DollywoodFoundation.org. You can also get all the information you need to help the wildfire victims at MountainTough.org.

“The best way that anybody can help right now, beyond giving to the Dollywood Foundation and the My People Fund, is to just come visit us and make those memories and come back and see us again next year,” said Ramey.

How much money did Dolly’s telethon raise?

“We know right now that it’s in the millions and we’re waiting on a few re-airings of the telethon to happen. Then we’ll announce the total amount,” said Ramey.

Last week, two teenagers were arrested for starting the fires. 

Below are several other question and answer sessions with Dolly: 

In all of your years growing up there, could you have ever imagined anything like this happening?

What is the ultimate goal or benchmark you’re trying to reach with the telethon?

 Approx. how many families are you anticipating being able to help?

Talk about the personal sense of responsibility you have to take action.

You’re a very busy business lady— you could have easily gone on with your busy packed schedule… explain why you are dropping everything to do this….and what message does this send to other people who want to get involved? 

Who are getting involved?

We’ve heard the term ‘mountain tough’ — you’re from there… explain what that means to someone who doesn’t live there…. These are very tough people right?

Who came up with the name, “My People Fund” and explain what those three words mean to you.

Take us back to the night this happened… what was going through your mind… ? Were you in disbelief? How were you processing what you were seeing and hearing as it unfolded?

Do you still have family there and are they okay?

What about your employees… are they all okay?

We heard Dollywood lost some cabins… is there any other damage?

 Anything else you want to add?

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