Over 2,500 tickets sold to Wednesday Kenny Rogers, Neal E. Boyd concert in Sikeston

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Neal E. Boyd sings at the Sikeston Field House Wednesday night in a benefit concert for the Kenny Rogers Children's Center. (Michelle Felter/Standard Democrat)

SIKESTON, Mo. -- For many Southeast Missouri children and their families, the Kenny Rogers Children's Center is a special place. It's where special needs children can go to receive free therapy.

The Center's namesake also considers it to be a special place.

"I'm thrilled that it's named after me and to be a part of it," said Rogers during a visit to the Center on Wednesday afternoon. During the visit he shot promo ads for the annual KRCC telethon, met with staff and some of the children treated, toured the Center, and saw drawings for the 7,000-foot expansion the board of directors plans with the proceeds made from Wednesday's benefit concert.

Just over 2,500 tickets for Wednesday's concert, featuring Sikeston's own Neal E. Boyd as a special guest, sold, said Cal Crader, tickets chairman.

Those who saw the concert were treated to an "unbelievable evening," said Michelle Fayette, executive director of the Kenny Rogers Children's Center. "Neal was fantastic and Kenny Rogers is just unbelievable."

She noted that during the concert Rogers threw a $100 bill out in the audience for each No. 1 hit he sang, totaling up $1,500 to be donated to the Center. David and Margaret Russell, who were sitting on the front row catching the bills, have matched the amount.

Fayette said throughout Wednesday, Rogers took time to meet with the staff at the Center along with the children.

"He was totally engaging and so sincere," said Fayette. "And, when Neal was here about two weeks ago he was the same way."

Rogers recalled how, in 1977, he was one of the entertainment acts at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo. There, he met Jaycees, including Tom Nunnelee, the general chairman for the concert, who had a dream of a building to treat children with special needs.

So, explained Rogers, he donated an Arabian stallion, "Borraabby" to the organization, which was auctioned off for $90,000. That was the seed money for the Center, which has expanded over the years thanks to more donations and benefit concerts from Rogers.

The country music artist pointed out, however, that although he did play a big role in the start-up of the Center, he isn't the one who keeps it going. "That comes from others' donations," he said.

But to those at the Center, he is a star in so many ways.

Brandy Dallas, physical therapist, expressed her thanks to Rogers while explaining one child's therapy.

"What you've done allows me and all the other therapists to do what we love," she said.

Rogers received a special gift at the Center, when Fayette and other staff presented him with a "walk down memory lane" -- a photo collage with special moments of Rogers' history with the Center.

And 10-year-old Jackie Roth showed her appreciation through a craft. During her session in the special skills room on Wednesday, she made Rogers a bracelet that said "I love Kenny." She later presented it to him at the sponsors reception preceding the concert.

Also at the reception, Gov. Jay Nixon honored Rogers and Boyd for their contributions to the state and Southeast Missouri. Both received proclamations, and Wednesday was declared "Kenny Rogers Day" in Missouri.

Concertgoers also got to see renderings of the planned expansion at the center. The expansion will double the treatment space available at the Center, which currently serves over 300 children from throughout the area.

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