NORMAN — After a decade of dreaming, planning and fundraising, Toby Keith is pleased to see progress at the OK Kids Korral.
“I see it on paper, I see great graphics, I see the people working on it. I see our goal. ... And then you actually drive down there and pull up in the driveway and look at it and go inside and walk around in there and you just go ‘Look at this big sucker. What a beautiful facility for the kids of Oklahoma,'” Keith told The Oklahoman last weekend at his fundraiser for the project.
The country music superstar believes that the donors and fellow celebrities that have supported his goal of constructing a home-away-from-home for Oklahoma children battling cancer and their families are excited about the progress, too.
The proof is in the numbers: The Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic, along with its Denim & Diamond dinner and auction, last weekend raked in more than $1 million toward the project. By comparison, last year's fundraiser brought in $664,000.
The $8.5 million, 25,000-square-foot lodge on the south end of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is set to open in October.
Making a difference
“There was a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of red tape, hoops we had to jump through. And we had help from a lot of people and we had some resistance from others. Now that it's up, it's the buzz of the medical campus,” Keith said backstage May 10 at Riverwind Casino, where the Denim & Diamond dinner and auction kicked off the two-day event.
“It's immaculate. It kept the lodge look of wood and rock, but it's got the modern look of 2013 put into it. And I'm just completely amazed. It's more than I could imagine and I'm very proud of it.”
More importantly, the OK Kids Korral will feature 16 guest suites, a gourmet kitchen, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a movie theater, family resource room and more. It will offer overnight accommodations for families who must travel hundreds of miles from rural Oklahoma towns for their children to receive treatment as well as dayrooms where metro-area families can relax between appointments.
“It doesn't cost them a nickel to go. It's just there as an offering of love to kids who are unfortunate. It's just God shining his light through me,” Keith said.
The OK Kids Korral is the primary project of the Toby Keith Foundation, which makes its mission to “encourage the health and happiness of pediatric cancer patients.”
The mission has been a personal one for the Norman resident since Ally Webb, the 2-year-old daughter of his former bandmate Scott Webb, succumbed to cancer in 2003.
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As you get in and you start meeting these people, they become part of your life. ... Brock's amazing, man. Brock is a rock star.”
Speaking about Brock Hart, of Edmond, who helped Keith break ground for OK Kids Korral in 2012