NORMAN — With the help of more than a thousand fellow celebrities and supporters, Toby Keith's 10th annual hometown fundraiser raised more than $1 million last weekend.
The Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic, along with its Denim & Diamond dinner and auction, benefits the Toby Keith Foundation and its primary project: the construction of the OK Kids Korral, a home-away-from-home for Oklahoma children who are fighting cancer.
The $8.5 million, 25,000-square-foot lodge on the south end of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is due to open in a matter of months.
“For the first time, we get to show people some results of what we've been working on for the last decade,” Keith said backstage at Friday's Denim & Diamond event at Riverwind Casino. “The OK Kids Korral should be open in the fall, and people get to drive by and actually see where their money went.”
Having results to show seemed to resonate with supporters at the two-day event. With Keith and Tulsa comedian Rodney Carrington acting as auctioneers, Friday night's live auction raised nearly $500,000 alone.
The highest-priced item was a behind-the-scenes day with Keith's crew on his upcoming “Hammer Down Tour.”
The Denim & Diamonds dinner also boasted nearly 100 silent auction items, including the opportunity to name a sandwich at the Oklahoma City Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, which sold for $10,000.
The 2012 fundraiser raised $664,000.
Juliet Nees-Bright, executive director of The Toby Keith Foundation, said the appearance of Edmond resident Beth McDowell and her daughter Mia, 3, at Friday's event also moved donors. Mia, who is cancer-free after battling stage 4 neuroblastoma, enchanted attendees when she began twirling around the stage.
“When I told them about our day rooms for families who live relatively close to OKC, but who have multiple appointments in a day, she (Beth) told me how they ... really needed a place like the Korral while they were in treatment,” Nees-Bright said. “So, I asked her to come speak to the people at our event.”
The Korral, 818 NE 8, also will have overnight suites for families who must travel hundreds of miles from rural Oklahoma towns for their children to receive treatment, plus a kitchen, dining hall, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, game rooms and a movie theater.
Together, the live and silent auction totals were by far the biggest in the fundraiser's 10-year history. Organizers believe the event is one of the biggest auctions ever in the state, according to the release.
In addition, a record-breaking 240 people participated in Saturday's golf tournament at Belmar Golf Club in Norman, forcing organizers to arrange two separate shotgun starts for the first time.
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