By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - As much as Stacy Brown enjoyed listening to Kenny Chesney at the inaugural Music and Miracles Superfest last April, the greater payoff happened four months later when she presented a $200,000 check to fund research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
“We’ve been given a platform that we actually get to impact lives,” said Brown, founder of the Chicken Salad Chick franchise. “We get to put checks into the hands of scientists who are going to affect research. That feels amazing that we know exactly where the funds that we raise are going.”
With her husband, Kevin, who died of colon cancer five months before the first concert, Brown created the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation to fight cancer and hunger.
“To be able to hand a scientist a check that says, ‘Continue that program to help us all eradicate this disease,’ feels wonderful, and then to be able to meet the families who are fighting,” Brown said. “And to be able to impact their lives through an experience like this, the rewards are overwhelming.”
One of Brown’s rewards is to invite local cancer patients and their caregivers to attend Saturday’s second Music and Miracles Superfest, featuring Blake Shelton and Thomas Rhett.
“Kevin really taught me through his struggle, through his fight that you have to live,” she said. “Wherever you are, live in it. Be grateful for every experience that we can have.”
The groundwork Kevin laid leading up to the first MMS made the sequel easier to produce.
“The last one we all worked on with Kevin for two years,” Stacy said. “Being the first of its kind here in Auburn, it took a lot of groundbreaking work. This year, that path has already been laid so we’re thankful for that. It has been a little easier because of that groundbreaking work that Kevin did.”
More than 50,000 attended last year’s concert. Brown says her team learned from the first MMS, making changes in ticketing and parking to improve concertgoers’ experience this year.
“We’re elevated. We’re excited. We’re pumped. We’re ready,” Brown said. “As we’re crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s getting ready, you can’t contain the excitement in here. It’s palpable.”
Workers have been installing the stage and sound system this week at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“Any time we host an event on campus, especially the Athletics campus, we want to put Auburn’s best foot forward,” said Jeremy Roberts, Associate Athletics Director for Operations. “We’ve committed a lot of staff to making sure that the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation has a successful event.”
“It has been a wonderful collaboration,” Brown said. “I’m so touched by all of the people who have come on board and understand our cause and understand how hard Kevin fought in the beginning to make this happen. And everybody who has jumped on board is helping continue that legacy.
“It’s just touching when people say they’re willing to volunteer their time and they’re willing to volunteer products and services for us to raise money. I’m very thankful for all of the community involvement and the work that everybody has put in into making this happen.”
Kelsea Ballerini, David Ray and Lynyrd Skynyrd will also perform Saturday. With each song, Stacy Brown will think of her late husband and his desire to help others.
“This is Kevin’s legacy,” she said. “What I love to do is to lift him up, remember, carry out that legacy and carry him with us through every day. We are inspired by his words, his passion and his drive to get this done. Every day, I can hear him in my ear, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going.’”