Dolly Parton
Knoxvile News Sentinel
May 12, 2007
Giving back: Sevier County deserves a new hospital
By Dolly Parton

There are few things I can think of that are more important than your health. When you grew up a rural area like I did, you did the best you and your family could.

You paid the doctors with whatever you could spare. That's the way it was with my family, and it's the way it is for many folks today.

Back in the 1940s, a doctor named Robert F. Thomas rode his horse into our holler, and this loud-mouthed little girl was born. My daddy paid him with a sack of cornmeal. I guess that was all I was worth.

My family never forgot all that Dr. Thomas did for us and for everybody else in Sevier County.

Health care has changed a lot since then. Sevier County has a regional hospital. The staff and doctors provide good health care for our friends and neighbors. There's even a birthing center they named after me.

In my way of thinking, though, it's not enough. Sevier County deserves more.

All of East Tennessee has exploded in the last 20 years. To support the more than 10 million people who come to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on vacation, thousands of families have moved to our area to support the tourism industry.

All of those families need health care. The families, like mine, who grew up here and built East Tennessee are aging and need health care.

These are needs that our current hospital and health-care system cannot handle, no matter how hard they try and how good their intentions.

I have truly been blessed in my life, and I try to give back what I can to help others. We have a great opportunity in Sevier County and in all of the rural counties of East Tennessee.

The Robert F. Thomas Foundation and Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center are working toward building a new, modern hospital in Sevierville that will serve all of the people here in East Tennessee, not just in Sevier County.

I have always been a firm believer in working hard for what is right and for making your own breaks if you want things to change. With that in mind, my Dollywood and Dixie Stampede companies are donating $500,000 to this cause. I am also performing a benefit concert on May 20 at the Smokies Stadium to help raise money for this $100 million hospital project.

I want to challenge all of you to help in any way you can to support this important project for all of East Tennessee.

Buy a ticket for the concert or encourage your business to support this effort like many others already have. I hope to see you at the Smokies Stadium on May 20 so we can celebrate this effort to improve health care in East Tennessee.

Remember, I will always love you, and if you support this, our children and grandchildren will love you, too.

Music and film star Dolly Parton is a native of Sevier County.