There has been a notable outpouring of support following the devastation of the Texas coastal region by Hurricane Harvey, yet with such an expansive area affected, as well as the heavily populated metropolis of Houston experiencing vast flooding, relief efforts are continuously large and lengthy. The scope of this natural disaster led country music star, George Strait, to step up and lead fundraising efforts live from Texas for Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Relief.
With his friends – Cavender Auto Family – underwriting the benefit with assistance from the Majestic Theater, Ticketmaster, VER, Bill Young Productions and the City of San Antonio, Strait was able to bring together a handful of stars from the Lone Star State to participate in the one hour televised telethon. The event was broadcast nationwide by ABC, CBS, CMT, Fox and NBC, Tuesday, September 12th at 8PM ET/7 CT. All proceeds benefited the Rebuild Texas Fund which includes United Way of Greater Houston, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Direct Relief, Feeding Texas, The Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief (administered by the Greater Houston Community Fund) and RebuildTX.org.
Prior to the event, a press conference was held on stage at the Majestic with Governor Greg Abbott and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg in attendance alongside George Strait and the rest of the musical talent performing that night – Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Lyle Lovett, and Robert Earl Keen. The Cavender Family and members of the San Antonio Automotive Dealers Association were also present with sizable checks in donation to the fund. Tour promoter, Louis Messina, moderated the conference where each star spoke about their personal inspirations to help, and the Governor and Mayor addressed local involvement in the relief efforts.
PRESS CONFERENCE PHOTO GALLERY
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Governor Greg Abbott was next in line to be welcomed to the podium with many thanks to the efforts of San Antonio and celebrated the humanitarian efforts of Texans as a whole. He then issued a gubernatorial proclamation declaring September 12th Hand in Hand Day in recognition of the statewide response of compassion in the wake of Harvey. Governor Abbott commented that “Texans have been an inspiration for the entire world, showing that the worst of disasters can bring out the very best in humanity,” and further exemplified this by announcing that Michael & Susan Dell would be matching, dollar for dollar, every donation made during the televised event up to $10 million.
George Strait, dubbed at the conference “Texas’ hero,” approached the podium more humbly than that moniker suggested, giving thanks and praise to his friends and fellow entertainers who had gathered and donated time, money, services, or combination of, for the event. Two sizable donations were then presented – $75,000 by Cavender Automotive Family and an additional $20,000 by the San Antonio Auto Dealers Association. Following photo ops of Mr. Strait with the donors and the checks, he brought out the lineup of stars billed to play that evening‘s benefit to say a few words about why they came out to help this cause. Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Lyle Lovett, and Robert Earl Keen each took a seat next to George Strait lining the stage with not only an enormous array of talent, but also heart. Strait declared that they “were here to help, and hope [they] can” with “high hopes” of raising a lot of money. With a great deal of compassion in his voice, he spoke about how unbelievable it has been to witness all of the loss to so many areas known to Texans (and non-) as places of leisure, where many memories were made on holiday, and that the feeling knowing that landscape is forever changed creates a sadness that resonates deeply in so many. He stated he plans to go see the damage first hand near the end of the week and through this fundraising wants to rebuild the tourist-dependent areas and get those businesses back up and running.
The emotion in Miranda Lambert’s voice was strong as she spoke about her firsthand experience with relief efforts in Houston with her personal charity, MuttNation Foundation, who came in and housed displaced dogs during the flooding. Having personally seen the heartbreaking devastation and knowing that it would continue to be a long term issue as relief efforts continue to build, she told the press that she has helped thus far by lending hugs and helping
hands on site and will continue to help tonight by lending her musical talents to a good cause.
Chris Stapleton was the only non-native of the group, however made an “honorary Texan” by George Strait who complemented him on the fact that “it speaks a lot about you to come down.” Having experienced personal loss from the 2010 floods in Nashville, Stapleton knew that it’s a “horrifying traumatizing thing that’s hard to get over, but you have to,” and this is when people need to pull together and help with both immediate and long term help, which led him to lend his talents to the efforts.
Houston-area native, Lyle Lovett, who was finishing up the last bit of his tour in Texas when the hurricane hit, witnessed the damage in his own area of North Harris county. He stated that the outpouring of support in his community, as well as the actions of fellow country star George Strait, were inspirational and he was in turn honored to be invited to participate in the Hand In Hand benefit.
“Corpus Christi Bay” singer/songwriter and Houston native Robert Earl Keen was on board to help raise funds for the coastal areas he’s fished, worked, and visited throughout his life. He spoke about his personal childhood account of Hurricane Carla hitting his Houston home and those memories that have stayed with him since.
A very brief Q&A session between press and artists followed, mainly geared towards George Strait as the Texas benefit’s chief organizer, and summed up the depth of the conference. Strait recognized the efforts of and his pride in Houston Texans star JJ Watts and how it “shows the generosity of people in situations like this.” He went on to further acknowledge the fires happening in the Northwest as well as Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida and how the outpouring of generosity is occurring nationwide. Miranda Lambert’s response to final question of what words of inspiration they had for fans currently going through the rebuilding process, summed up the true essence and goal of Hand in Hand. With her voice cracking with emotion she stated “We’re here for you…everybody is doing their parts to make sure that people are taken care of… it’s not about Texans at this point, it’s about people helping people and loving people through a really hard time…you’re not forgotten about and you won’t be for years to come…it’s going to be years of recovery and that’s true, but you’re not forgotten and you’re loved and this is not something that’s a fleeting moment, we’re here to do as much as we can.”
The Hand in Hand benefit televised live later that evening met exactly what these artists set out to achieve, collectively raising over $44 million in aid for Hurricane Harvey and later extended the charity to help those affected by Irma as well. The benefit was broadcast from four cities – New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, and San Antonio – and featured touching words and tributes from countless celebrities. Matthew McConaughey moderated the San Antonio concert where Strait, Lambert, Stapleton, Lovett, and Keen belted out emotional performances during both collective and singular sets of their well-known hits from the stage of the Majestic Theater. The heartfelt donation of time and talent from these amazing musicians mirrored the strength and resilience of the great state of Texas as well as the nation, and gave their all in providing the very path to stability and direction Mr. McConaughey asked of donors at the beginning of the show. All of the generous donations, whether by individuals or corporations, are united in a single manner of providing direction and hope for the future of these areas ravaged by these natural disasters and the demonstration of benevolence has been, and continues to be, a display of the strength and pride of our Lone Star State.