By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
West Virginia natives who have attained high-profile name status in entertainment, sports and other fields are putting their celebrity to great use by helping the victims of the June 23 flood that ravaged many towns and communities in the Mountain State.
The historic flood, which killed more than 20 people, destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses, decimated many small communities, and washed out scores of roads and bridges, is the third worst in the state’s recorded history. And it is the worst since the flood of 1985.
This plight and devastation have brought dozens of the state’s famous sons and daughters back home – literally and figuratively -to lend a hand to raise money to help the victims who are suffering and in great need … many having lost everything they had.
Country superstar and Glen Dale native Brad Paisley was one of the first to respond to the victims’ needs.
Paisley has launched a GoFundMe campaign by contributing $100,000 of his own money to get the ball rolling.
“Now that the waters are receding, it’s time to pitch in and help any way we can,” he said in a statement.
In responding to many of his fans about his doing a benefit concert, Paisley stated that is an option for the future but that right now funds are needed immediately.
“One of the best ways I have found that, hopefully, will raise the largest amount of money the quickest and get it to the people in need the fastest is through GoFundMe. I have set a goal of $1 million; this is doable and only a small portion of what is needed.”
Paisley reaches out to others to do their part as well: “Join me as we help West Virginia together.”
Near the end of June, Paisley visited in his home state in the town of Clendenin, a town of 1,200 people that had been especially affected by the high, raging waters of the Elk River. He saw the horrific damage to homes, schools and the infrastructure of the small town.
He said it broke his heart to witness first-hand the tragedy of the flood, but that he has hope for all the areas devastated because the people of his home state are resilient and hardworking.
“We’re all neighbors and we’re all similar people,” he says about West Virginians’ spirit and solidarity to help one another.
But folks not born here care, too. Kentucky native and country and pop music star and movie and TV actor Billy Ray Cyrus does have a West Virginia connection, having worked in the Ragtime Lounge houseband in Huntington for four years.
Cyrus, as cohost, joined Paisley and other West Virginia celebrities, including Charleston native actress Jennifer Garner, for a fundraising telethon July 1 – “Rebuild West Virginia” – to help flood victims.
Also on the bill that night of the telethon, which originated from the studios of WVVA-TV and was shown on online and statewide, were “America’s Got Talent” winner Landau Murphy Jr., NBA star Bimbo Coles and best-selling author Homer Hickam.
All proceeds from the telethon went to the American Red Cross in West Virginia to help the flood victims.
Though not a native son, golfer Bubba Watson who now lives in the state, along with the PGA Tour gave considerably to the flood aid efforts.
So many other prominent figures who are from and love West Virginia have contributed their money, time and talents to help, including actor Kevin Sizemore, Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher and WWE wrestler Heath Slater.