Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

A brief history of Dolly’s extensive philanthropy: From vaccines to scholarships

A brief history of Dolly’s extensive philanthropy: From vaccines to scholarships

The singer is best known as a country music icon, but she’s also been working 9 to 5 to make other people’s lives worth living. Here’s a look back at her famed kindness over the years.

The universally beloved country music legend Dolly Parton has established herself as far more than a ‘dumb blonde’ for years - despite releasing a song with that title in 1967.

Parton has put her money where her mouth is, over and over again, to help those in need - often in the areas local to her and her upbringing. The Tennessee-born star is, after all, a country girl at heart.

The singer, 76, wasn’t always such a widely adored icon, however. Firstly, she wasn’t instantly successful. Well, not under her own name, at least. Parton first made it in the music industry as a songwriter for other people. But aged 21, she was invited on American country music singer Porter Wagoner’s weekly TV show, replacing Norma Jean.

It may seem hard to imagine now, but Parton was disliked at first. Some members of the audience even chanted Jean’s name at her, livid that she had replaced a fan favourite.

It didn’t take long for Parton to win viewers over, though, and then the rest of the world followed. She has become perhaps the biggest name to ever come out of country music, with 51 Grammy nominations under her belt and an estimated net worth of $350 million (£298.3 million).

Last month, she received the renowned Carnegie Medal of Philantrophy, often described as the ‘Nobel Prize for philanthrophy’, and only yesterday she proved again why she deserved it. Amazon founder and multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos gave the singer a $100 million (£85 million) prize through his Bezos Courage and Civility Award. This recognises leaders who “pursue solutions with courage and civility”.

Parton said she would “my best to do good things with this money”.

So how did her philantrophy begin and just how many millions has she given away over the years?


In 1988, Parton set up The Dollywood Foundation


Parton at a SiriusXM event in the Dollywood Dreamsong Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee on May 6, 2016


That’s right, Parton’s good deeds date back quite a while. In 1988, around the peak of her fame, Parton set up The Dollywood Foundation, named after the Tennessee theme park she bought in 1986 and renamed after herself (she may be gracious, but she also loves a good Dolly pun).

The foundation was initially aimed at helping children in the Sevier County region of Tennessee where Parton was born to achieve greater academic success. However, it’s since covered far more bases than that. Don’t worry, we’ll get to them later.


In 1989, she went one step further


After launching her foundation, Parton vowed to provide every high school student in Sevier County with a $500 (£426) scholarship to help them attend the nearby college.

She therefore set up “The Buddy Program”. This was a process which required a student and one friend to sign a contract agreeing that both of them had to graduate. If they succeeded, both students received $500.

As a result, according to The Dollywood Foundation the high school’s dropout rate declined from 35 per cent to just six per cent that year.


1995 brought books, books and more books


Parton meets young children at the Magna Science And Adventure Park in Rotherham, South Yorkshire on December 5, 2007


The success of The Dollywood Foundation led the programme to expand beyond the students of Sevier County. A new scheme was born: the Imagination Library. The initiative, which is still running, involves the posting of a book to each child enrolled in school from the year of their birth until kindergarten. This is to help encourage literacy from a young age. And here’s the kicker: it was inspired by Parton’s dad, Robert Lee, who couldn’t read.

The Imagination Library says 850,000 children are provided with books every month across the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Republic of Ireland. That’s a whole lotta books.


And in 2000, more scholarships!


Following the fruitful Buddy Program, Parton decided to launch a new scholarship of $15,000 (£12,789) awarded to five high school graduates in Sevier County to help them attend college. The scholarship recieved more endorsements from elsewhere, and so The Dollywood Foundation was able to extend it to four other high schools in the area.


Next, she decided to open a hospital


By 2007, Parton had done her bit for literacy and college tuition, so she set her sights on building a new hospital for her hometown


By 2007 Parton had done her bit for literacy and college tuition, so she set her sights on building a new hospital for her hometown. The new Sevier County hospital was funded by a special concert, hosted by Parton and The Dollywood Foundation. Altogether, the joint causes managed to raise $1 million (£850,000) for the hospital. The women’s health and maternity ward, The Dolly Parton Birthing Unit, was named after Parton as a result.


Then, in 2016, she helped people recover from wildfires


Nine years later, Parton sprang into action during the Great Smoky Mountain Wildfires in Tennessee, which would become one of the largest natural disasters in the state’s history. Parton took part in a joint telethon, as well as her own, to crowdfund for survivors of the disaster. This raised over $9 million (£7.7 million). She distributed the money using her My People Fund, donating $1,000 a month for six months to families who lost their homes in the wildfires.

And, in typical benevolent fashion, she also established a separate scholarship for high school students who had lost their homes to help fund their college tuition.


In 2018, she brought butterflies to a children’s hospital


Parton at the Monroe Carell Jr. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in 2017


In 2017, Parton donated $1 million to a children’s hospital in Vanderbilt, Nashville. The donation was in honour of her niece Hannah Dennison, who was treated for leukaemia at the hospital. Then, in 2018, Parton gave the hospital an even more personal gift: she opened a butterfly garden called the Hannah Dennison Butterfly Garden to entertain children.

Parton’s niece was successfully treated and discharged from hospital. Dennison is now 34 and she and Parton have revisited the hospital and butterfly garden together in recent years.


In 2020, she helped fund the Moderna vaccine


Just when you think this woman couldn’t get any better, she literally helped to save the world. Parton donated another million dollars to the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in 2020 to help research potential vaccines at the height of the pandemic. It transpired that her donation had funded the critical early stages of development of the Moderna vaccine.

Parton had her own vaccine dose at the hospital in March 2021. She even encouraged other people to get theirs by performing a version of her hit sont Jolene, with the key lyrics changed to “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you please don't hesitate, Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine.”

You really can’t beat Dolly Parton.

Newsletter

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
Close
0:00
0:00
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
Chinese search giant Baidu to launch ChatGPT like AI chatbot.
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
China is opening up for foreign investors.
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
China relaxes 'red lines' on property sector borrowing in policy pivot
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
Japan prosecutors indict man for ex-PM Shinzo Abe murder
Vietnam removes two deputy PMs amid anti-corruption campaign
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
China’s recovery could add 1% to Australia’s GDP: JPMorgan 
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
China vows to strengthen financial support for enterprises: official
International medical experts speak out against COVID-19 restrictions on China
2 Billion People To Travel In China's "Great Migration" Over Next 40 Days
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
Flight constraints expected to weigh on China travel rebound
Billionaire Jack Ma relinquishes control of Ant Group
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
Teslas now over 40% cheaper in China than US
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
China seeks course correction in US ties but will fight ‘all forms of hegemony’, top diplomat Wang Yi says
China will boost spending in 2023
African traders welcome end of China’s Covid travel curbs
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
Preparations begin for Spring Festival travel rush
Domestic COVID-19 drug effective in trial
HK to see a full recovery, John Lee says in New Year message
Bargain hunters flock to last day of Hong Kong brands and products expo
Hong Kong aims for January 8 reopening of border with mainland China
×