By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala - Everyone would have understood had Kevin Brown chosen to spend his remaining days focused inwardly, on his health and his family.
But those who knew him best are not surprised that Kevin devoted much of his last two years to helping others.
Shortly after receiving dreadful news - stage 4 colon cancer - in November, 2013, Brown and his wife, Stacy, launched the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation.
"Kevin was a man who always exceeded expectations," Stacy says. "And when the cancer diagnosis came, so did his laser focus. He was determined to make the largest impact he could make, on funding research for the cure of cancer."
"He was a man in a hurry," Foundation board member Earlon McWhorter says. "He wanted to get the foundation formed. He thought big. That was just Kevin. Thinking big was not unusual for him."
McWhorter smiles remembering just how big.
"He walked in my office one day, right next door, and he said, `You think you can get Jordan-Hare Stadium for a concert?'" McWhorter recalls. "I looked at him, I thought, `What are you thinking?"
Kevin was thinking about the Music and Miracles Superfest, Saturday's benefit concert in Auburn.
"He knew the only man who could fill Jordan-Hare and help him meet his goal was Kenny Chesney," Stacy says.
Chesney's music had been their soundtrack, as Kevin and Stacy built a family and a chain of restaurants.
"Kevin and I have lived our lives together to Kenny always playing in the background. From painting walls in our first restaurant, to playing on Lake Martin, to lying on the beach, good times have always called for Kenny."
Three other acts, Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt and Old Dominion will precede Chesney on stage.
Kevin's goal for the event was to raise one million dollars in one day to fight cancer and feed the hungry.
"Kevin always had big dreams, and always had very high expectations, not only of others, but always of himself. And if he set a goal, he meant to achieve it," says Barclay Smith, Director of the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation. "We are working really hard to make him proud."
They had the idea and the artist. Next, they needed the venue.
"I went to see (Auburn Director of Athletics) Jay Jacobs," McWhorter says. "I said, `Jay, here's the deal. Our foundation would like to explore having a concert at Jordan-Hare Stadium and raising money for charity.' He said these words, `You got it, brother.' That was the beginning."
"Earlon came to me with a big vision for the concert, and I was impressed by Kevin and the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation's commitment to helping others even while he was in the fight of his life," Jacobs said. "Doing something of this magnitude that has never been done before isn't easy, but Kevin was committed to making it happen. I wanted to help if we could."
What followed were nearly two years of planning, with multiple entities working together to pull off an event of this magnitude.
Among the challenges: getting all of the equipment where it needs to be.
"Moving and erecting a stage in a football stadium in the middle of a small college town campus," said Jeremy Roberts, Associate Athletic Director for Operations.
With 8,000 music fans on the floor, and perhaps up to 50,000 more in the stands, Saturday figures to be the most people on Pat Dye Field since the 2013 Iron Bowl.
Thankfully for Auburn's turf team, the agreement between Auburn and the CSC Foundation provides for the installation of a new field after the last equipment truck pulls out.
"They're actually happy about it," Roberts says. "They get a brand new field after this."
Jacobs said he knew Auburn would give a warm welcome to Chesney and the other performers.
"We're excited to welcome Kenny and all of the artists to Auburn," Jacobs says. "It's sure to be a good time for a great cause, and that's what matters most."
"This is a situation where people are coming to town who might not have ever been to Auburn before," Roberts says. "This is another opportunity to introduce Auburn to people, and it's exciting."
"It's such a great thing for Auburn University," Smith says. "Just to have people who have not experienced the Auburn Family, the Auburn tradition, to come to this town, and see what we're made of. Kenny's excited to be here. We're thankful that all of the pieces have fallen into place."
For the concert's organizers, the only regret is that Kevin Brown will not be in attendance. He died in November, 2015.
"We're just thankful for the time we had with him, and we're so sad that he won't be here to experience it with us," Smiths says.
But the way the Chicken Salad Chick team looks at it, Kevin's presence will be strongly felt Saturday night.
"No. 1, he'll have the best seat in the house, and No. 2, he has one job left, and that's the weather," Smith says. "We put him in charge of that. He's got a direct line."
"So many people have helped make Kevin's dream come true, and here it is!" Stacy says. "I will never forget that as Kevin was fighting his own battle with cancer, he was fighting even harder for others who would travel the same path. And that is a great part of his legacy."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer