Story & photos by Marty Liggins
Recently there was a special event in Nashville, TN. According to the current conventional wisdom, it couldn't happen. But it did!
It seems that many politicians and members of the media are trying to fracture and splinter the population of the US into small (read: controllable) groups. Each group is supposed to fit into a "box" and wear a label. None of the groups are supposed to wander outside of the box, either.
Many in the mainstream media are falsely and hysterically pointing to guns as a leading cause of death among youth. In their strident claims, the media implies that a pro-gun group must, by necessity, be an anti-children group. It seems that the folks at the children's charities aren't buying the "boxes" concept provided by the media. Indeed, there are several children's charities that are turning to gun groups for support.
One of those groups is Sugarbugs Inc., a non-profit, support-group organization for children suffering from diabetes, with chapters in 14 states. Diane Roettger founded Sugarbugs some years back and, because of her connections, she has been able to put together some celebrity events to help provide some of the funding for the cause. One of those annual celebrity events takes place each spring in Nashville.
The first weekend of May was beautiful for many people in Tennessee, but especially for some children stricken with diabetes. That was the weekend that US Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) came back to Nashville and helped in the effort to raise more than $170,000 to benefit the Sugarbugs charity.
As you might expect, the Thompson did not come alone. He brought along some of his friends and associates. Political buddies, movie and television buddies, and country music buddies. Into this mix were added a few doses of sponsors from various industries and a generous helping of "un-celebrities" interested in contributing to a worthy cause. In short, quite a few different "boxes" that weren't supposed to associate together.
Using the media's "box" concept, such a gathering would not likely happen. Using the media guidelines, too, you would generally assume that if such a group did get together it would be for a benefit concert, which is a good assumption because they did that, too, on the Friday night before the shoot. What you would not assume is that they would be getting together for a shooting event. But they did. That happened Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. A tough starting time for some of the shooters, like Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks, who were up late the night before-performing at the benefit concert! Those two guys were on the shooting grounds at the Nashville Gun Club before most of their teammates arrived.
Although there were numerous political folks on hand, this was not a political rally.
And while there were many pro-gun activists and industry personnel on hand, this was not a "gun" rally.
There were many music, television, and movie industry people on hand, but it was not a "beautiful people" event, either.
There were a few kids with diabetes on hand, as well as the people who started the Sugarbugs organization. Boxes be damned, these kids were what it was really about, and these were the people who were here to help. For what it's worth, the event was mostly ignored by the mainstream media. Despite $170,000+ raised for a local charity, plus the appearance of celebrities and politicians, only one television showed up. Eighty percent of the proceeds go directly to supporting the children.
Billed as the "Fred Thompson Celebrity Skeet Shoot," the title captures both the essence and the diversity of the event. It is hereby acknowledged that the event was originally a political event. It dates back to when Fred Thompson, a local Tennessean with an acting and legal background, was running for the US Senate. With the help of Donna Hilley of Sony/ATV Music, he put together a celebrity event to help him raise money and generate some positive PR. It did both and he was elected.
The mixture of politics, celebrities and shooting is very diverse. You might normally associate two of the three together, but not all of them. Credit Sen. Thompson with the ability to be able to put all three together-as well as the courage to do it in today's political climate.
The senator wanted to continue the event after his election, but wanted to do so for a charity. Initially it was pointed towards diabetes in general. After discussions at various levels, and consideration of different worthy charities, Roettger was successful in convincing Thompson that the Sugarbugs organization should be the beneficiary.
This year, as usual, Thompson was in the middle of everything, speaking to everyone. He was even a part of the Friday night benefit concert, when he and the "Fredettes" sang with Brooks & Dunn. (The "Fredettes" were so-named by Kix Brooks during the auction. These two young ladies donated a combined $4,200 to be able to sing with the senator and the country music duo, Brooks & Dunn.)
Quite a few companies participated in the event this year. Lunch was provided by Uncle Bud's, a catfish/chicken/gator tail chain in the area. Remington set up an "interactive" display to allow people to shoot some of their guns. Gamaliel Shooting Supply (some of the great people in the industry) were sponsors, and fielded a team in the shoot. Ruger was involved in a big way, including providing the shotgun Thompson used in the shoot. Beretta provided numerous shotguns as prizes. Most of the same folks help out every year at this event.
The headliners for the concert were Brooks & Dunn, country music kings the past few years. They were joined onstage by rock 'n' roller Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Additional performers were Chalee Tennison, Sara Evans, Andy Griggs, and The Lynns. There were about 2,500 people in attendance that evening. People filled all three floors of the Wild Horse.
The shooter turnout for this year's event was the best ever. According to the results sheets, there were 34 teams (170 shooters) on the line this year. A great turnout for a charity event. Based on information provided by John Hollins Jr., there may have been more shooters than that.
The shoot was set up as a 75-target event. Scores for individuals were posted in Lewis-class fashion, entertainers were in a separate class. Teams were ranked on an overall basis only.
Interesting items from the score sheets. Actress Leslie Easterbrook was only one target away from being the best shooter on her team. Brooks & Dunn didn't do too bad for novices, with 53 and 54 targets respectively. Neither of them embarrassed their team.
The best shooting celebrity, Mike Snider, was on the highest scoring team, and he only missed four targets!
The supporter/sponsor's list was long, as well as diverse. US Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Ducks Unlimited, FedEx, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, JC Penney, Tractor Supply Company, Rodeo Drive Salon & Day Spa, Beretta, Arthur Andersen, South Trust Bank, and BellSouth are just a few selected at random from several pages in the event program. Remember, this is for a shooting event.
The best thing about the event is that there are so many folks to whom credit is due. There's not a single person, or group, that can be singled out as the most significant.
Hollins was the event organizer. Roettger is the director of Sugarbugs. Tracy Gaylord-Embry was the celebrity coordinator. Thompson was the event sponsor. Brooks & Dunn hosted the Friday night reception, auction, and concert. Quail Unlimited supplied personnel to run the stats for the shooting event. Uncle Bud's Catfish & Such provided the catered lunch on Saturday. All of these, and many more, came together to provide funding for an excellent cause.
Sugarbugs will continue to grow and serve the needs of families with children afflicted by diabetes. Roettger has a daughter with it. Hollins is diabetic. Tracy Gaylord-Embry's father is insulin dependent. They all have a vested interest in seeing this go on to bigger and better things.
They're already gearing up for next year! For more information and notice of next year's event, check the website at http://www.sugarbugs.org.
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