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30th anniversary

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  1. “Absolutely Magical” — 30th Anniversary Reunion Week at Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    That Christmastime-as-a-kid feeling came over Mike McKinley during the 30th anniversary reunion for the former golf tournament committee. For nearly two decades, the tournament raised funds for what became Reba’s Ranch House. 

    At the reunion, Mike’s friends were several years older than when they started the tournaments, but it didn’t take long for them to feel like kids at Christmas again.

    Mike (far left) with his beautiful wife speaking to Randy and Robert.

    “[Those years] gave you that excitement you only get a few times in your life,” Mike said. “It was genuine.”

    Thirty years after it all began, the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) and Reba’s Ranch House hosted three major reunions in September 2022 to bring together just over 100 individuals who served on the committees and the THF board of directors throughout the years. They traveled in from Virginia, Austin, San Antonio, the Dallas metroplex, and local counties to Reba’s Ranch House, and reunited after years of losing touch.

     

    Golf Tournament Committee Reunion

    An evening of food and swapping stories from the golf course brought back memories of a special time in the lives of those who took part in raising funds for the local hospital and the ranch house.

    At the reunion, Mike enjoyed rare conversations with old friends, the select few who underwent those days of setting up in the wind and rain, then golfing under clear blue skies and winding down the day, exhausted.

    “The reunion was very satisfying and fun, to go back and talk about stuff that you can’t talk about with just anyone,” Mike said.

    Reba sent a video of love and appreciation for the former golf committee members to enjoy during their evening. It brought up memories of how Reba helped hand out trophies after the tournament. Mike recounted attending Reba’s first fundraising concert in Denison when he didn’t know much about her.

    “We left that concert and I told Lynn, she’s really got a voice!” Mike recalled with a chuckle. “Little did we know we were going to get years more of her.”

     

    Development Committee Reunion

    “Absolutely magical” is how Sherry Christie described the reunion evening for the development committee that once oversaw the Memorial weekend fundraising efforts. 

    “My favorite moment was walking in the door and seeing the people that I hadn’t seen in so long,” Sherry said. “It brought back memories of how hard we’d laugh and how tired we’d get and how it all came together.”

    A slideshow in the dining room showed off hundreds of photos, and prompting stories and laughter. Then the big surprise came for the nearly 100 in attendance.

    “I turned around because I heard a voice that sounded like Reba,” Sherry said. “And there she was on a big screen!  We could see ourselves on the screen, too, so it was almost like in the past. She was as excited to see us as we were to see her.” 

    The party spilled onto the back patio under the night sky, the enthusiasm unabated. Jeanie Graber, another of the early committee members, shared her favorite part of the reunion. 

    “Hugging and laughing and reminiscing with all our friends,” Jeanie said. “Those human contacts, that was such fun. We were all thrilled to see each other and we were proud of the work we had accomplished.”

    “If we had to do another one of those [fundraisers], I know we could get it done,” Sherry said with a laugh. “I looked around and thought, we could do it all over again. We might have to start a little earlier and work a little longer, but there was enough enthusiasm there to put together another concert.”

    Before the night ended, the group gathered for a photo.

    “It was nothing but big smiles,” Sherry said.

     

    The Development Committee – Sherry, 3rd from the right, and Jeanie, 6th from the right.

     

    THF Board Reunion

    A young person couldn’t have lived in Denison during the ‘80s and ‘90s and not been part of those fundraising concerts with Reba.

    “I grew up going to all the concerts,”  said John Carey, a past THF board chairman. “As a young person, the concerts were awesome. You wanted to go see the show. Getting older and realizing what it was all about, makes it even more special.”

    For the past and present THF board members, the luncheon reunion was combined with the regular board gathering. The event gave an opportunity for board members to recall what built the THF and Reba’s Ranch House, and recognize those who conserved and perpetuated the legacy.

    “A lot of our board members didn’t know some of the past members,” Joe Fallon said. He is the current chairman of the board. “I thought it was great for them to meet and to show our appreciation, to say, ‘We have not forgotten that you guys did a lot of work and set us up for success. Job well done, and thank you.’”

    Joe Fallon

    Culminating the luncheon was the announcement of a significant donation to THF.

    “The day escalated,” John said. “It went from this jovial time of all of us getting together and enjoying each other’s company, to the reflection of the 30 year anniversary of the ranch house, to ‘oh, by the way, we received an extra six million dollar gift to continue our mission.’”

    The gift came from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, a contribution tied to a larger effort to identify and support organizations across the U.S. who are making a difference in health equity in vulnerable populations, including rural communities.

    John Carey

     

    Others Not Forgotten

    A common thread through all three reunion events were quiet moments of remembering those who were missing. Many people who took part in the original effort have passed on, making the reunions all the more precious to those who could come.

    “The ranch house and the foundation have been in existence long enough that we are now beginning to lose members,” John said. “[The reunion] was a reminder of everyone’s hard work and how successful the foundation has become, but I think it was there, also, to keep us connected.”

     

    The Next 30 Years

    Remembering the past paves the way to keep the ranch house and its mission at the forefront of the area communities.

    “There were people over the years who were really interested in what was done, and that was brought up in the conversations,” Mike said. “I told someone, ‘Just think, a quick 30 years and we can do this reunion again.’” 

    He laughed, then added, “Most of us are still healthy and going strong.”

  2. Touring Reba’s Ranch House with Reba McEntire

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Ten minutes before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Reba’s Ranch House facility on Memorial Day 2010, Michelle Lemming answered a call from Dr. Darius Maggi.

    “I’ll see you tomorrow at the grand opening,” he said. “I’ve got it on my calendar.”

    Michelle, CEO & President of the Texoma Health Foundation, nearly dropped her phone. “Dr. Maggi, it’s today!”

    After weeks of frenzied preparations and moving, the ranch house team had met a significant goal: to open the new facility on Memorial Day. The sentiment harkened back to the long weekends filled with fundraising for the hospital and the original Reba’s Ranch House. Concerts, golf and fishing tournaments, parades—all the events culminated in the original house and now, by extension, the new ranch house.

    Everyone gathered under the white tent on Memorial Day 2010, including Reba McEntire and her family, awaiting the grand opening ceremony. But Dr. Maggi, the man who had asked Reba to become involved in the medical endeavors in the area years before, hadn’t arrived.

    “It’s tomorrow,” Dr. Maggi insisted with Michelle over the phone. Then he laughed. “I’m pulling in now.”

     

    Dr. Maggi speaking at the ribbon cutting

    Dr. Maggi speaking at the ribbon cutting.

     

    On that day of sunshine and jovial spirits, the ceremony kicked off with flags and prayer, Reba speaking and thanking all the contributors, and there were hugs and kisses all around. 

    The party moved up the stone sidewalk beneath the wood beams that stretched overhead, holding up the portico. The beams let guests know they had arrived at the ranch house—their temporary home away from home. The exterior of the house is a symbol to the community, representing thousands of hours and years of fundraising poured into the ranch-style house.

    The roof itself was used to design the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) logo. 

    “We didn’t have a logo,” said Tony Kaai, president of the Denison Development Alliance and former THF board member. “It clicked with me one day that those beams could be part of the logo.”

     

    Tony at a holiday event with Reba’s Ranch House partner, Grayson College and Culinary Chef Joanna Bryant.

     

    Under those beams, Reba McEntire cut the red ribbon to open the home to an average of 800 weary caregivers annually.

    Kent Black, a founding member of THF, had the honor of giving Reba her first tour. Past the open, friendly welcome desk, they could veer left where the walls are filled with the history of the house. Photos, posters, newspaper clippings, and a written history tell the story of those years of fundraising that created this comforting place for caregivers. 

    Across from the wall is the entrance into the library, a quiet sanctuary. Filled with touches from the original ranch house, it’s a place where difficult conversations and prayer happen as staff and volunteers care for caregivers going through some of the greatest trials of their lives.

    The kitchen opens as a bright space where guests can take meals and bond with others going through similar situations. The wood hutch represents this bonding. It was built and donated by a former guest who had received the comfort the ranch house offered. The kitchen was designed around accommodating the hutch.

    From the bedrooms with handmade quilts to the relaxing outdoor areas, Reba was able to see how carefully planned every square foot of the ranch house was to give caregivers a refuge in the storm of their lives. 

    On that Memorial Day 2010, everyone knew their years of tireless work was worth every minute.

    “The highlight was to see the facility finished and know the history of how many people worked on it, and the whole Reba history in Denison,” Tony said. “To understand the history and then see the present and know what’s going to happen in the future because you’ve got the staff and the funds to make significant progress in the health of our region, that’s what I thought about.”

     

    Kent touring Reba and her mom Mrs. McEntire

    Kent touring Reba and her mom Mrs. McEntire in the new ranch house.

     

    Celebrate Reba and the next 30 years of the ranch house! Give a one-time donation or recurring gift here.

  3. Constructing the New Home Away From Home

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    On land gifted by Tom and Peggy Johnson, shovels cut into the rich Texas soil for the groundbreaking of a new Reba’s Ranch House facility. 

    Reba McEntire turned a gold spadeful of dirt, and expressed her appreciation of the moment to the gathering of staff, community leaders, and volunteers. “There are not many times that you come to a place that starts with a prayer and the flag,” Reba said.

    But long before the first spade broke ground, a construction committee was formed to design every detail of the new facility. 

    Kent Black, who was a founding member of the Texoma Health Foundation (THF), headed the committee, along with Phil Roether, also a founding member of THF. Kent’s last position before retirement was as CEO of United Space Alliance and Phil was VP of Operations at Raytheon. Both men are engineers and had experience building their own homes.

    Kent featured in a local magazine during construction (at the RRH build-site)

    Phil and Kent began listing the nitty-gritty considerations of safety and costs while still keeping in mind the heart of the ranch house. 

    “We wanted to have a place that followed the legacy of the previous ranch house and provide the same level of care and more,” Phil said. “It’s a home away from home for people in distress.”

    Kent and Phil’s task was to build both a hotel-like facility and a home. They filled out spreadsheet after spreadsheet day and night, and hammered out ideas with the committee.

    “Throughout the process, there was always a healthy testing of things we wanted to do,” Phil said. “When people would question something, typically a better product came out. It got us to think outside the box.”

    A special seat at the board table was designated for a representative from Reba’s team who made each meeting and gave input on her desires for the new facility. Reba also made sure the construction committee had what they needed for the project.

     “Reba was very involved in helping if we ran into challenges,” Phil said. “If she was able to help in any way, she found a way to do it.”

    Several entities pitched in to make the facility come together. HKS, an international design firm, donated their services for the ranch house at no cost, and Brasfield and Gorrie, a general contractor overseeing the construction of a new local hospital, managed the ranch house project at a significantly reduced fee. Significant cash and in-kind donations poured in, as did volunteers. Ranch hands from Kent’s 1,300 acre ranch helped move the 10ft by 8ft wooden quilt that hung at the entrance of the original Reba’s Ranch House, to its new home. They came back again to assemble beds in the finished rooms. 

    Kent and his team moving the quilt.

    All the while, Kent, joined at times by Phil, was at the building site every day, making sure each element—from the common areas to the exterior stone—went into its correct place to serve guests and achieve the ranch house look.

    When the construction phase ended, Kent and Phil could step back for a long look at the fruits of their year and a half of labor.

    “Most rewarding was seeing it materialize and knowing how many people it was going to help,” Kent said. “It felt like we really spent our money well.”

    “I was able to stand outside and face the entrance where the portico is to see the pattern of the beams,” Phil said. “It was a design element that was incorporated to match the same roof design of the original house – a nod to our legacy. The same design is used in the Texoma Health Foundation logo today. The talents we had on the foundation board were so complementary to one another, and that made it much easier. You couldn’t help but have pride for having been a part of it.”

    Phil, his wife Betty (right), and Michelle Lemming (Left, CEO & President of THF)

    You can continue building on the legacy of Reba’s Ranch House in our 30th year when you become a donor here.

  4. Reba’s Ranch House – the Heart of the Texoma Health Foundation

     

    Top: Ground breaking of new Reba’s Ranch House with founding THF Board Members Below: Herman and Kay at work at THF

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Overnight, we pivoted from a supporting board that worked tirelessly to raise funds for Denison’s nonprofit hospital, to the board of a completely new organization—the Texoma Health Foundation, a foundation that would maintain the legacy and assets of the nonprofit hospital. One of the greatest legacies THF inherited was Reba’s Ranch House. 

    In 2007, members of the original TMC Foundation board of directors were chosen to become the founding board of directors for the new THF, and they would go on to pen a new chapter for the ranch house.

    Entrusted with creating a new business holding charitable dollars dedicated to the community, THF needed a board of directors that consisted of people with business knowledge, plus hearts filled with love of community. There were a number of candidates among the souls who had dedicated much of their lives to building the original ranch house. 

    But when the first two nominees for chairman of the new board were unable to take on the role, it fell to Herman Ringler, a member of the TMC Foundation.

    “I’ll do it,” he said. A resident of Denison since he was six years old, Herman spent his life on Main Street. His retail clothing business, inherited from his parents, keeps him in the thick of community life and involvement.

    “At the time of the  sale, we didn’t know what would happen to Reba’s Ranch House, but we knew if we received it, we would keep it at any cost,” Kay Skelton said. She was a member of the Reba Development Committee that oversaw the fundraising efforts for many precious years. 

    “I have yet to find another foundation like ours that inherited a hospital hospitality house, and it is so special,” says Michelle Lemming, THF CEO & President. “We often say that the Ranch House is the heart of THF. It is a reflection of what we strive to be as an organization – reflecting care for others, and service to community. It is who we are.”

    The house first opened in 1992 as part of massive fundraising efforts and benefit concerts  by Reba McEntire. The hard work of the Reba Development Committee, the Reba Golf Committee, and community members built Reba’s Ranch House that sheltered thousands of caregivers for fifteen years. With the selling of the hospital, it was time for the ranch house to move into a new phase for the next fifteen years, and beyond.

    Kay would later become the second chair of the home-grown organization. As visionaries, Herman and Kay had served on several local committees together, including the Denison Education Foundation. They knew one of the first orders of business was selecting an executive officer. 

    “We didn’t even know what we were looking for,” Herman said with a chuckle. “When we hired Michelle [Lemming], we did not realize how big her brain was in reference to finances. Even though the ranch house is a labor of love and a source of comfort, THF is the business.”

    With the sell of the hospital and the forming of THF, Reba’s Ranch House was at the threshold of old and new. Herman, Kay and board members spent hours devoted to weighing whether the board should preserve and invest in the original Reba’s Ranch House, a beautiful and welcoming home, with so much history and memories, or if they should build a new and expanded ranch house more central to THF’s service area. They decided on the latter following a generous offer by Tom and Peggy Johnson to gift a piece of land to THF that would be perfect for a new house.

    “I remember very well walking into the new Reba’s Ranch House and thinking, ‘How could it be more perfect than this?’” Kay said. “Having hired Michelle, it was more perfect, and she just continues to grow it.”

    Kay recalled, “We know that Reba could have said at the time of the sell of the hospital, ‘It’s been really great and I’ve enjoyed it, thank you very much.’ But she chose to go forward with us and we are so proud to get to run Reba’s first and only named charity.”

    Reba has a permanent seat on the board, and created the Reba McEntire Fund at THF.

    Reba’s Ranch House continues as the queen of country music’s only named charity while it rests in the care of the Texoma Health Foundation and its compassionate board members and staff.

     

    Become a monthly “caregiver of caregivers” as a recurring donor and be part of the Reba’s Ranch House legacy. Get started by clicking here.

  5. The Reba Golf Tournaments: Winning an Ultimate Prize

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    “They were looking for a sucker, and I didn’t realize it.” 

    That was how Jim Bono became involved with the committee that organized the fundraising tournament for the local hospital, and later, Reba’s Ranch House.

    Jim had no regrets after getting roped into helping wrangle the annual affair that featured celebrities from Dallas Cowboy players to up-and-coming country music stars. And of course, Reba always made an appearance.

    Ronnie Cole, who was on the committee from the first year onward and was later chairman of it, recalled, “Reba would ride around on a golf cart visiting each team. That meant a lot to everyone. A couple of times, she stayed to hand out trophies. It was huge to have a superstar like her spend time with us.”

    But long before prizes were awarded, a load of work faced the 15 committee members and dozens of volunteers. After months of planning and coordinating, Memorial Day morning started on the golf course at 6AM for Jim and Ronnie. Some years, they slogged through muddy terrain to prepare for the 18 teams and 180 golfers. But in over 15 years, the tournament was never rained out. 

    Before the 9AM tee time, they welcomed celebrity golfers like Micky Mantle, Troy Aikman, Barry Switzer, and Vince Gill, though the country music singer had to leave early to prepare for that evening’s Reba concert.

    Not everything was a hit with the participants, nor the committee. Ronnie and Jim still scoff about the “infamous yellow ball” contest.

    “It was awful,” Ronnie said. “I don’t know whose idea it was, but I’m going to blame Jim.”

    “I don’t know who to blame, but we want to blame someone for it,” Jim said with a laugh. “Like we needed something else to make the day longer.”

    The bad idea was a scramble tournament where every team had a yellow ball to keep track of. If you lost your yellow ball, you were out, and the team that came in with the lowest score won a prize.

    “People got so tired of keeping up with their yellow ball, they’d hit it out of bounds on purpose,” Ronnie added. 

    There was plenty of success at each tournament, especially the number of sponsor prizes given out that ranged from umbrellas to golf shoes. The committee was proud of the number of women golfers who competed.

    “We had prizes for women only,” Jim said. “Very few tournaments do that.”

    At the end of each tournament, the committee kicked back and talked about the day, accessing what went well and what didn’t. The putting green and high number of prizes remained over the years, and sometimes the committee quadrupled their fundraising goal.

    “I think people took an interest in the cause, which was the ranch house,” Jim said. “The house is one of those things you hope you never have to use, but you’re so glad it’s there when you do. We felt like we had a small piece of something to help others for years and years to come.”

    “That’s what I think back on, the legacy of having the ranch house,” Ronnie said.

    The work Ronnie and Jim put in, along with many committee members and volunteers, pays dividends today. Seven days a week, weary caregivers take refuge in Reba’s Ranch House during some of the stormiest days of their lives. 

    Become a caregiver of caregivers today by contributing here to the daily operations of the house.

  6. Two Generations of Handcrafted Bird Feeders at the Ranch House

     

    A bird feeder hand crafted as a replica of the new Reba’s Ranch House lovingly made by Rich Ward, son of Brad Ward. The House was made in memory of Rich’s father and beautiful wife, Julie. From left: THF Board Members Barbara Malone, Ginger Nye, Chairman Joe Fallon; Rich Ward, RRH Director, Marilyn Bice and Guest Relations Mitch Gray and Michelle Lemming THF CEO. June 18, 2022

    by Richard Ward

     

    The bird feeder story starts well over 30 years ago and includes the following: Richard’s parents, Brad and Betty Ward, were retired and living on Betty’s home place in North Texas. In 1992, a foundation backed by the country music singer, Reba McEntire, opened the original Reba’s Ranch House near the hospital in Denison, Texas.

    The Ranch House serves a similar function to a Ronald McDonald House: People from out of town who have relatives in the hospital can stay there for free. Guests have kitchen privileges, and, on a rotating basis, local churches furnish buffet suppers. Brad was associated with a docent group at the nearby Hagerman Wildlife Refuge.

    A leader in this group asked him to build a bird feeder for the docent group to donate to Reba’s Ranch House to garner some local press for both organizations. Being a crafty guy, Brad took a look at the Ranch House and built a model of the facility as a bird feeder. Some years later, Denison built a much-larger hospital near the freeway, and Reba’s followed suite by constructing a new Ranch House a block from this hospital. (The old hospital is now an in-patient, physical rehabilitation facility, and the old Ranch House is a dementia care home.)

    In 2017, Brad was terminally ill in the new hospital; and Richard and his wife, Julie, were staying at the new Reba’s Ranch House. During a save-our-sanity drive around, they tried to search out the original Ranch House and the model. Unfortunately, 25 years of Texas sun had cooked the bird feeder to near disintegration.

    In a subsequent discussion, Julie said, “Well, your dad built a model of the old Ranch House, maybe you should build a model of the new one.”

    Thus began a major project. A contact on Reba’s staff obtained the original AutoCad® architectural design files, and skilled designer, Dennis Bacon, created a corresponding Solidworks® scale model and generated parts drawings. After joining the Hacker Lab in Rocklin, CA, Richard used their woodworking equipment to create the walls and dormers. Jim Krebs, an excellent all-arond crafter at the Lab helped him laser burn the door, window and rock wall patterns into the wood while a sheet metal shop, Roseville Precision Industries, fabricated the base and roof decks (as a favor to a former good customer).

    Richard assembled the pieces and cut the “shingles” on a work table in my side yard. The actual project work did not consume all these years; there were many, many months of delay due to personal issues and work load at the sheet metal shop. Some touch up work remains, and a custom shipping crate remains to be built in order to ship the feeder to Texas, but completion is close enough to celebrate.

  7. Feeding the Masses

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    It was springtime, and Horace Groff just couldn’t say no when asked to volunteer for the upcoming fundraising concert. That was how he became involved with “feeding the masses” each Memorial Day weekend before the annual Reba concert, raising funds for the local hospital and Reba’s Ranch House. 

    What started as a one-day event exploded when the concerts shifted from the football stadium where Horace and fellow volunteers grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. The concerts moved to the airport and the grills were replaced with mega smokers where the cooking crews fed people 15-18 hours a day for a whole week. Reba would bring in multiple semis plus buses filled with equipment.

    “That was the kind of show she put on,” Horace said. “It was always top quality, and there were a lot of people in the background to make it happen.”

    With those semis and buses came lots of people backstage looking for something to do—and something to eat. Then there were the local volunteers to feed: Staff from the hospital freely offered their time; students from the high school earned a concert ticket by setting up chairs; the ladies of the Reba Development Committee who organized everything.

    And Horace was in the midst of it all, helping keep hundreds of people fed.

    “Some workers would start at daylight, then they’d finish and another crew would come in,” Horace recalled the shifts. “The food service director at the hospital coordinated and bought the food. We would show up and do briskets and sometimes fried fish. There were several of us with cooking equipment, and we always felt good about giving back to the community.”

    Born and raised in Denison, Horace served as the county judge for 21 years, so another unique task fell to him. He became a liaison between the committee and the airport, helping iron out wrinkles in flight schedules, timing for setup and the concert.

    The Memorial Day concert got underway at dark as the late spring heat cooled from the day. Horace and the brisket smokers were set up backstage and he had no trouble hearing the lively concerts. 

    Still, the best part for him was the fellowship—everyone from big name country stars to high schoolers.

    “You had a lot of people backstage,” Horace said. “It got to be quite a production to get all that done, but we had hundreds of volunteers show up and pitch in. A good time was had by all.”

    The monumental effort Horace and his cooking crew put forward is paying dividends today for every caregiver who finds refuge at Reba’s Ranch House.

     

    After 30 years, “Feeding the masses” remains part of the ranch house. Churches and other community members bring food weekly for exhausted caregivers to have a hot meal and snacks. The kitchen in the ranch house is available to caregivers 24/7.

    You can continue Horace and the food crew’s legacy of feeding hungry souls by contributing to the ranch house here

  8. A Norman Rockwell Small-town Parade + Reba

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    It was the end of another big Memorial Day weekend. Valerie Freels had recently joined the Reba Development Committee, and the committee was just given charge of the town parade. She promised Reba and her team that they would have a Rose Parade-caliber event the next year.

    Valerie set about fulfilling her promise with the help of her teammates, Joy Bryant and Pat Watson. Valerie contacted the local TV station and they got behind the project.

    But having a parade the caliber of the famed Rose Parade wouldn’t be easy, especially in a small community. 

    First, they needed floats—lots of them. To incentivize people to enter, the committee offered free lawn chair tickets to the Reba concert that took place the evening following the parade.

    Next, Valerie needed a parade float fit for a star. She turned to the high school FFA kids, who built Reba’s float—a gigantic horseshoe covered with red, white, and blue, and a swing in the middle for Reba.

    Lastly, Valerie needed promotion to draw in thousands of people to line the streets with cheers and flags. The TV station promoted the parade, amping excitement in advance.

    Still, there was no way to know the turnout numbers until the morning of the parade.

    “I probably didn’t have enough sense to be nervous,” Valerie said with a laugh. “Having Bruce Stidham and the TV station partnering with us gave me a sense of security.”

    The morning arrived for the parade whose theme became, “Remembering every brave American.”

    The parade lined up, preparing to head down Main Street—a street that looked very much like a miniature downtown Pasadena during the Rose Parade. The TV station broadcasted the parade live.

    “There were people everywhere,” Valerie said. “Newspapers estimated 20,000 people in downtown Denison for the parade.”

    “Valerie brought the hometown parade to the highest level with a true Norman Rockwell feeling,” said Kris McKinney, a former chairwoman of the development committee.

    With Joy and Pat on the parade committee, Valerie fulfilled her promise that year, and for years to come. For one parade, the development committee sponsored a float with “Little Rebas,” girls dancing to Reba tunes on a float.

    A crowd favorite of the parade each year were the Glory Riders. The equestrians bedecked in red, white, and blue never failed to be a high point.

     The theme every year stayed firmly patriotic, while giving attendees a chance to see their sweetheart of country music. 

    “Reba was so gracious and friendly,” Valerie recalls.

    Valerie and the committee were able to pull off a Rose Parade-style celebration—all while honoring veterans and supporting efforts to raise awareness for what became Reba’s Ranch House.

     

    Through donating to the ranch house, you carry on a Rose Parade-sized legacy. Donate now in celebration of the 30 years that Reba’s Ranch House has opened its doors to care for caregivers.

  9. The Exhaustive Love that Built Reba’s Ranch House

    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 Gary, Reba, & Maureen Maggi

    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.”

    Kris McKinney, Reba, & Kitty Richardson

    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

  10. “Reba-time”—The Beginnings of a Big-Hearted Journey

    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.

    GARY SEWELL / HERALD DEMOCRAT Reba McEntire cuts the ribbon held by Herman Ringler and Dr. Darius Maggi to officially open the new Reba’s Ranch House.