By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
Music. Food. Parades. Golf tournament. True red, white, blue, and country music Memorial Day weekends came alive in Denison, Texas, all thanks to hearts as big as Texas.
Over 30 years ago, a tradition started with an entire community coming together for what some dubbed “Reba-time.” The annual fundraising weekend for the local hospital captured the American spirit of selflessly serving your fellow man.
That was how Dr. Darius Maggi saw it, those early days when, what was then the area’s nonprofit hospital, the Texoma Medical Center was known for having nearly every health offering available at the time. There were few things not housed under its roof.
And from the beginning, raising funds for health initiatives was all about one thing: The care of the patient.
The need for care extended to caregivers of patients. This means to create a “caregiver of the caregiver” emerged after one question proposed by local businessman Jerdy Gary, who later became the first chairman of the Texoma Medical Center Foundation (TMCF). The foundation that would ultimately help establish the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) so many years later.
“Jerdy knew Reba (McEntire) and her family members were my patients,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “So he asked if I thought we could get Reba to do something [for the hospital]. I said, ‘Well, I’ll ask her.”
Dr. Maggi did just that over lunch one day with Reba. The conversation sparked a monumental time of fundraisers that spanned two decades. Part of those funds built Reba’s Ranch House—a home for caregivers to find refuge while their loved one is hospitalized.
“It was such a phenomenal community effort across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma,” Dr. Maggi said. “Incredible for a town this size.”
The first Reba concert was held with her full band in the old Denison High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon in 1987. But they didn’t end there. They spilled out into white tents and parties, then grew every Memorial Day weekend, capturing the heart of surrounding areas with Denison’s Memorial Day Parade, a Reba Charity Golf Classic, home-cooked food, and of course, Reba’s concerts.
Though simply a small town, the heart of Denison and the communities that surround us could fill Texas. From business owners, to hospital staff and volunteers, to the ladies on the Reba Development Committee, the community came alive to prepare each year for Reba-time.
“It was a happy time because it was community,” Dr. Maggi said. “That’s what we’re supposed to be about. Our main reason when we set out with all this was to be the beacon of care for people.”
It all began with that question posed by Jerdy to Dr. Maggi, who remembers Jerdy being like, “a big teddy bear.”
“He had so much love,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “He was the son of a governor, and he knew something about promotions. He had that deep voice and could articulate extremely well. But he wasn’t about himself. He did not want the limelight, but he had a lot of respect from the community as a great leader.”
Jerdy passed in 2021, just shy of this 30th year celebrating the opening of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992. But his legacy echoes in the halls and lives through every person who finds refuge within the ranch house.
After 30 years, Reba’s Ranch House—owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation—still opens its doors to care for caregivers. You can show that same care that began with “Reba-time” by donating here.