Toby Keith will never forget the struggles his friends Scott and Linda Webb faced as their 2-year-old daughter Ally fought and finally succumbed to cancer in 2003.
“The last thing a parent wants to hear is that your kid has cancer. One of the parents usually has to quit work, your bills skyrocket, and you end up spending what precious time you might have left commuting back and forth. We're trying to build a 16-room facility here that houses people with the same burdens,” Keith said Friday morning after he, city officials and Toby Keith Foundation representatives broke ground on the OK Kids Korral.
“They get to share joys and heartbreaks together because they're basically in the same boat. They need that kind of support group around them. This is a wonderful location ... we're so proud to be here today.”
The OK Kids Korral, currently an empty field on the south end of the OU Health Sciences Center, will provide housing for pediatric cancer patients and their families seeking care at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center and other nearby facilities. It is set to open in fall 2013.
“We've waited eight or nine years to have this dream to come true. There's just so much money has to be raised and there's so much time that goes into planning something like this. Eight years ago, I thought we could come down here in about six months and throw this sucker up. But it just takes a lot of time to get the wheels turning,” Keith said.
The groundbreaking took place hours before Keith was to host a private dinner and auction to continue fundraising for the lodge. The event was part of his Ninth Annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic, teeing off Saturday at Belmar Golf Club in Norman, the city Keith calls home.
Eliminating the ‘wobbly bridge'
The country music superstar was nearly upstaged Friday morning by 3-year-old Brock Hart, who happily used a small golden shovel to help with the ceremonial turning of the earth. The Edmond boy was diagnosed with leukemia on Oct. 6, 2009, just a few weeks before first birthday, and he spent the next four months in Children's Hospital as he battled cancer and a life-threatening fungal infection.
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