Dollywood Reopens Plus Relief Funds for Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smoky Mountains

Update December 8, 2016

Dolly Parton and a number of her friends, including Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers and Alison Krauss, are set to perform during Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund on Tuesday, December 13 at 8 p.m. (EST) on Great American Country (GAC).

dolly parton

The nationally-broadcast, three-hour telethon seeks to raise money for the Dollywood Foundation My People Fund, established by Parton, The Dollywood Company and Parton’s dinner theaters in the wake of last week’s wildfires in the entertainment icon’s home area of Sevier County, Tennessee. Smoky Mountains Rise also will be simulcast across multiple radio chains, including iHeart Media’s digital and select on-air platforms, Cumulus Media’s NASH Nights LIVE, TuneIn’s Country Roads channel, and several other platforms which are set to be announced shortly. Additionally, other celebrities joining Smoky Mountains Rise will be announced in the coming days.

Original post from December 2 follows below…

In early November the Dollywood Resort hosted me for a visit to Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, and I instantly fell in love with the scenic natural beauty of the area.  During that trip I heard about the severe drought conditions the Smokies were experiencing as well as news of some fires in the mountains.  None of us had any idea of the coming devastation.  Soon thereafter, wildfires swept through Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and up to the boundaries of the Dollywood theme park itself destroying hundreds of buildings, thousands of forest acres, and resulting in the loss of life.  Today, December 2, 2016, the Dollywood theme park re-opens, and Dolly Parton has pledged financial support to local families.  This area needs our help now.  Continue reading for what you can do to support families impacted by the fires during this holiday season and beyond.

Dolly Parton announced the establishment of the My People Fund from The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation to assist the victims of the Great Smoky Mountain wildfires in eastern Tennessee. The My People Fund will provide $1,000 each month to families who lost their homes in Sevier County.

“I’ve always believed charity begins at home and my home is some place special,” Parton explained. “That’s why I’ve asked my Dollywood Companies—including the Dollywood theme park, and DreamMore Resort; my dinner theater attractions including Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack Adventure; and my Dollywood Foundation—to help me establish the My People Fund.

“We want to provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires. I know it has been a trying time for my people and this assistance will help get them back on their feet.”

The public is welcome to contribute to the My People Fund to also support these families, and can find out more by visiting the  For those wishing to send donations via mail, those contributions should be sent to: My People Fund, c/o Dollywood Foundation, 111 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. In less than 36 hours, the fund already has raised more than $1 million, but the need is much greater.

Any family who lost their primary residence (renters and homeowners) due to the wildfires in Sevier County will be eligible. A pre-application for those affected will be available at Completion of the pre-application is not required but is encouraged to expedite the distribution process. The first funds will be distributed Dec. 15-16 and Dec. 19-20; one check per household per month will be issued. Families can receive aid for up to six months.

“We are working to gain a better idea of the number of families affected by the tragedy,” said David Dotson, President of the Dollywood Foundation. “The My People Fund has already secured more than $1 million and climbing. But we know that substantially more donations will be required to meet the need.”

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

For those who would prefer to donate to Gatlinburg, TN directly, the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation has established the Gatlinburg Relief Fund which will directly benefit the families impacted by the wildfires.

The relief fund is managed by SmartBank, an East Tennessee-based community bank with multiple branches in Sevier County.  The Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation is accepting online gifts, click here to donate. In addition, you can mail a donation to PO Box 1910, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, 37868-1910. Checks should be made payable to “Gatlinburg Relief Fund.”

“Since the fires began earlier this week, we have been inundated with calls from people wanting to know how they can help,” said Billy Carroll, SmartBank President & CEO. “After talking with Gatlinburg officials, they are requesting that anyone wishing to help, make a donation to the chamber’s Gatlinburg Relief Fund, where the dollars can have the greatest impact.”

The Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization created to assist the local business community and citizens through various charitable efforts.

Smoky Mountains Fire

Vacation Races, the official race partner of the National Park System, hosts an annual half marathon in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Vacation Races is holding the Smokies Strong Virtual Race to help raise money for those affected by the wildfire. When you register, you’ll be given the choice of four fundraising efforts, 100% of your money will go to the option you choose, and all proceeds will go towards helping the area recover from the fire. Click here to learn more and register for the Smokies Strong Virtual Race.

So many families have lost their homes, property, and material possessions during this holiday season, and I encourage everyone to do what they can to help this community get back on their feet.  I just made a donation to both funds.

Winterfest Lights

Sevierville, TN, Winterfest, photo by Chad Branton

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.