By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
“Dad, there might be a tornado coming, should we wake Mom?”
“No, let her sleep. She’s tired.”
This simple exchange summarizes the exhaustive effort a small group of women put forward every Memorial Day weekend. These fundraising weekends eventually built Reba’s Ranch House.
The night after one of the annual Reba concerts and events, a tornado siren alerted Anne Gary’s family of a coming storm. But “Dad”— Jerdy Gary, Anne’s husband—said Mom needed her sleep…she was tired.
The fundraising needs for the area’s nonprofit hospital at the time expanded with the idea of building a hospitality-style house.
One day, Anne Gary and Maureen Maggi were going through the hospital that serves patients in both Texas and Oklahoma.
“Dr. Malone was the heart doctor who came to do surgery that day,” Anne says. “All the patient families were sitting on the floor in the back hall, trying to sleep. It was sad. My thought was, surely we can do better than that.”
Anne and Maureen were on the original Reba Development Committee which was in charge of the many years of Reba concerts and galas. Together, with a group of women leaders, including Kris McKinney, Martha Dollarhide, and Kitty Richardson, the hospital’s PR person, they set out to raise funds like never before.
But raising funds for the hospital and the ranch house wasn’t the only fruit of their endeavor. The fundraisers changed the trajectory of Kris McKinney’s life as a volunteer.
“With hard work and getting people together, it’s just amazing what can be accomplished for a community goal,” Kris says. “There were some rough times, but everyone loved the hospital. To be able to contribute to that was a highlight of my life.”
It changed Kris’ life in another big way when she invited Mark McKinney, an old acquaintance, on a date for one of the “Reba parties” in the spring. They were married in the fall.
Maureen became the one and only ticket collector. She kept bundles of tickets in the trunk of her car, but her motto ran, “No money, no tickie.” The ladies hoped she was never rear-ended.
Martha Dollarhide served as liaison between the committee and the hospital board. She is remembered as a community doer, but the hospital was her big focus.
“She let me run a lot of the development committee,” Kris says.
“But if she didn’t like something, she told you,” Anne added with a chuckle.
The greatest memory for all the ladies, though, was how the community turned out every year and made sacrifices to get things done.
Yet more than once, the ladies thought they faced certain failure. Spring storms tore up stages and equipment. Fundraising consultants said they couldn’t raise a large amount in such a small town; that it was impossible to do a concert and gala on the same weekend.
Yet year after year, these ladies rewrote the rules with an army of volunteers and determined souls.
All while enjoying precious time with Reba and her family.
Anne recalls something Reba often told them: “You all do all the work; I just show up and sing.”
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 be a part of the next 30 years of that exhaustive community love by donating here.
Reba brought in up and coming stars for many of her concerts:
October 4, 1987: First Concert in the Denison High School Auditorium with Mason Dixon
May 29, 1989: Reba and the Statler Brothers + first Reba Golf Classic
May 28, 1990: Reba and Don Williams and Garth Brooks: Munson Stadium
May 27, 1991: Reba and Restless Heart and Vince Gill: Munson Stadium
May 25, 1992: Reba and Brooks and Dunn and Dolly Parton: Munson Stadium
May 31, 1993: Reba Vince Gill and Aaron Tippin at the Airport
May 30, 1994: Reba and John Michael Montgomery and John Berry: Airport
May 29, 1995: Reba and Tracy Byrd: Airport
May 27, 1996: Reba and Billy Dean: Airport
May 26, 1997: Reba and Brooks and Dunn: Airport
May 1999: Intercontinental Hotel: Dallas
May 30, 2005:Reba and Joe Nichols: Choctaw
May 27, 2007: Reba at the Airport