We need a lot more people like Dolly Parton in our world right now. Parton is America’s true treasure. Born the fourth of 12 children, Parton started from humble beginnings and became a highly successful singer, actress, businesswoman and humanitarian.
Parton’s Imagination Library, a part of her Dollywood Foundation, mails one book per month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. Inspired by her own father’s inability to read or write, she determined that there had to be a way to help children fall in love with books.
More than 1,600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to almost 850,000 children each month across the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and the Republic of Ireland.
The Dollywood Foundation, funded from Parton’s profits, has raised funds for several charities. In December 2006, Parton pledged $500,000 toward a proposed $90 million hospital and cancer center to be constructed in her hometown of Sevierville, Tenn., in the name of Robert F. Thomas, the physician who delivered her. In 2003, her efforts to preserve the American Bald Eagle through the American Eagle Foundation’s sanctuary at Dollywood earned her the Partnership Award. She personally raised $9 million to help the families in the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires of 2016.
In 2019, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward vaccine research.
And just last week, Parton pledged to fund educational costs for all full-time, part-time and seasonal employees of the Dolly Parton resort in Tennessee and other subsidiaries of parent company Herschend Enterprises, which include the Harlem Globetrotters and the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky, according to NPR. The program, open to the company’s 11,000 employees, will officially launch on Feb. 24. Employees are eligible for the program from day one of their employment.
The program called, Herschend’s GROW U., offers more than 100 fully funded (100% free) diploma, degree and certificate programs across 30 learning partners, including programs in high-demand fields, such as business administration and leadership, culinary, finance, technology and marketing. The company will also provide partial funding, up to $5,250 per year, for 150 additional programs in fields including hospitality, engineering, human resources and art design.
We need another Danny Thomas, too — American actor, singer, nightclub comedian, producer and philanthropist. A devout Roman Catholic, Thomas made a vow that if he found success, he would open a shrine dedicated to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. After becoming a successful actor, he and his wife began traveling the United States to help raise funds to build St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. With the help of friends, Thomas founded their hospital in Memphis, Tenn., in 1962.
Since its inception, St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and around the world, continuing the mission of finding cures and saving children. St. Jude’s has grown to include eight affiliate hospitals across the United States.
We need a few more folks like Keanu Reeves, who, in response to his sister’s battle with leukemia, founded a private cancer foundation, which aids children’s hospitals and provides cancer research. Reeves is also known for striking up conversations with strangers while on the subway and for lavishing his film crews with nice gifts. He is compassionate and spiritual.
We need more people to take what Greta Thunberg says seriously when it comes to climate change. She ignited the world with her words in 2019, delivering a speech at the United Nations, calling on decision-makers around the world to commit to saving the Earth for her generation and the next. We need more people with the strength and courage of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head on a school bus in Pakistan by the Taliban when she was 15 years old. She was targeted because she dared to speak out against a ban on education for girls.
She survived and has gone on to become a role model for women globally. She has devoted her life to being a voice in the fight to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education.
And we need to recognize and remember people who took a stand for the Civil Rights movement, like young Claudette Colvin.
Colvin was 15 when she became a major player in the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her bus seat to a Caucasian rider. This was nine months before Rosa Parks was arrested for the same thing. She was one of the four plaintiffs involved in the Supreme Court case that ultimately outlawed segregation on Alabama buses.
The world would be a much better place!
Patty Leon is the senior editor of the Coastal Courier, looking for the next Super Person, because Lord knows the world needs it.