173RD AIRBORNE BRIGADE NATIONAL MEMORIAL
“These guys have put their lives on the line and over 1700 members of the 173rd have lost their lives serving this country. When we heard that they expected it to take 3 – 5 years of a capital fundraising campaign to build the memorial we decided we had to find a way to raise the money in one day. We’re just glad we are in a position to help these guys out,” Big Kenny.
When legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd heard about the proposed event they joined forces with Big Kenny and John Rich. The 173rd Airborne Brigade National Memorial was in discussion for the past two decades. The design was approved and the location of the memorial was chosen to be at the National Infantry Museum at Ft. Benning. Ground breaking took place on 11 July 2008 and the Memorial was dedicated in the presence of more than 600 Sky Soldiers and friends on 1 June 2010.
The song “8th of November” written by Big Kenny & John Rich tells the story of Operation Hump, a search and destroy operation, that was initiated on November 8, 1965 during the Vietnam War by the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts
July 16, 2007 Springfeild, Illinois, Big Kenny & John Rich were Honored At The Vietnam Veterans Of America’s National Convention. On July 18th The Duo received the President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for their emotional hit single “8th Of November” The veterans chose to honor Big & Rich after the duo scored a hit with 8th of November, a song inspired by a battle U.S. troops fought in Vietnam in 1965.
The story of the duo’s close friend, Niles Harris, a Purple Heart veteran and member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade who, as a 19-year-old army private, was shot in a jungle fire fight during the Vietnam War on November 8, 1965. (Harris also attended Ceremonies) In 2002, Big Kenny and Rich befriended Harris when they visited his hometown of Deadwood, South Dakota. The friendship continued, resulting in the duo writing “The 8th of November” to honor his legacy. September 2005 Big Kenny and John Rich accompanied Harris on a trip to Vietnam to try to make sense of the battle that took his comrades’ lives on that fall day in 1965. A documentary of the experience began airing in July 2006.
Big & Rich have worked selflessly to support Vietnam veterans. In October 2006, along with Lynyrd Skynyrd, they performed a benefit concert in Atlanta, Georgia, raising $500,000 in one day. All profits went to the building fund for the 173rd Airborne Brigade National Memorial, in Ft. Benning, Georgia. Big Kenny commented “To receive an award of this caliber, it has never crossed our minds. It’s a wonderful surprise and to have Niles, the man who inspired this song here, brings everything full circle.” Previous recipients of VVA’s President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts include: Kris Kristofferson, Bob Hope, George Jones and Raquel Welch.
In 2007, Kenny was deeply moved by the genoicide that was occurring in Sudan’s Darfur region, and joined artists such as U2, Green Day, R.E.M, and Aerosmith to create theInstant Karma Benefit CD for Amnesty International, which raised over 5 million dollars. A strong believer in sustainability, Kenny helped fund the building of the Kunyuk School for Girls in Akon, Sudan.
October of 2007, Big Kenny and his wife, along with friends from the organization My Sister’s Keeper located in Boston, Dr. David Marks and Walt Ratterman from Sun Energy Power decided we were going to get together and go into the country of Sudan. We went there and visited this village of Akon, which is basically a refugee camp right in southern Sudan, about 50 kilometers from the line of demarcation between there and Darfur.
In addition to bringing medical supplies, school supplies, musical instruments and clothing to the 250 students at the Kunyuk School for Girls. Their school was currently holding classes under a large baobab tree. “At the same time, you know, we got do what I call “due diligence.” I went in to make sure that the people that I had met and had organized with on the ground were really doing what they told me “ The group traveled to war-torn Southern Sudan on humanitarian missions. Kenny a former contractor and Farmer from Culpeper, VA helped begin the process of building a girls’ school” This is an area that people have fled into, that had been pushed off their land. Like farmers. My dad’s a farmer, and I guess that’s why it hits with me.”
Alphin donated his royalties he received from writing the Tim McGraw hit, “Last Dollar (Fly Away),” to My sisters keepers. A charity assisting and protecting women in Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people have died from violence, malnutrition and disease as a result of the Sudanese government militia’s campaign against rebels in Darfur. The Alphin’s undertaking the financial cost of the entire trip and chartering a cargo plane to transport 25 crates of supplies to Sudan. “In addition we picked up 300 refugee survival kits. These are people who have been burned out of their homes, and this is enough to keep them alive for a little while until they can get somewhere or get to a village and get their feet back under them.” Kenny stated.
“Whether they are abused across the street or across an ocean, all people deserve freedom and basic human rights, I would spend every nickel I could get my hands on to help these people. It is the worst humanitarian crisis on our earth, and it is time we did something to stop it.”
Big Kenny documented his first journey in 2007 on film, “ Bearing Light” and since debuting it at the Nashville Film Festival in 2008, has utilized the film to spread awareness of the cause. In recognition of his efforts, the Save Darfur Coalition named Kenny their December 2008 “Darfur Hero”.
Love Everybody has helped with the facilitation of the Kunyuk School for Girls in Akon, Sudan. The school currently has 550+ students enrolled. Love Everybody’s goal is to instill hope, strength, and excellence to all students who attend so they can prosper in life. Their motto: “Highlight the good, inspire greatness, and encourage mutual responsibility for the betterment of humankind. — Love Everybody.”
Big Kenny Named December Darfur Hero
WASHINGTON – The Save Darfur Coalition today named Grammy Award-nominee Big Kenny (Kenny Alphin) it’s December “Darfur Hero.” The program highlights individuals who are playing a crucial role in helping end the violence in Darfur.
Big Kenny has been an outspoken advocate for the people of Darfur since early 2006 when he met former Marine Captain Brian Steidle who served as an African Union observer for their mission in Darfur. Since then he has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur – speaking about the situation at all of his concerts and in all of his public appearances and interviews.
“No matter where I am, I take advantage of every opportunity to raise awareness of the crisis in Darfur and demand action,” said Big Kenny in his blog posting on the Save Darfur website. “I would spend every nickel I could get my hands on to help these people. Darfur is the worst humanitarian crisis on our earth and it is time we did something to stop it – permanently.”
In April 2006, Big & Rich spoke and performed before an estimated 50,000 people at the “Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide” on the National Mall in Washington. In New Yorks Central Park, September 2007 they performed at “Voices to Stop Genocide” rally. Additionally, October 2007, Big Kenny traveled with his wife, Christiev, to Akon, Sudan. The couple delivered clothing, medical and school supplies, and musical instruments to the Kunyuk School for Girls.
“If these were our children in our neighborhoods, there is no way on earth we would tolerate such blatant abuses of humanity,” he added. “One by one we’ll grow into a voice that cannot be ignored.”
NASHVILLE 4 AFRICA
When country artist Big Kenny Alphin & Wife Christiev took a trip to Sudan Africa in 2007, he could have never imagined in 2009 there would be a benefit concert with the African Children’s Choir. Some of Nashville’s biggest names came to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center to help kids a world away. The music they played helped support The African Children’s Choir, as well as build more schools for their organization in Africa. A vision brought together and hosted by Big Kenny, the sold out musical event also included performances by Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Dierks Bentley, Brad Arnold (3 Doors Down), Jars of Clay and many others.
Mountaintop coal removal in Appalachia
Alarmed by mountaintop coal removal in Appalachia, Kenny became involved with the Natural Resources Defense Council in May 2009. “They are tearing down the oldest forests in the country to get at coal that will be gone tomorrow,” he says. “they could be installing windmills on the same land that would provide clean power for years and years to come. The beautify of the appalachian Mountains has inspired countless songs in country, bluegrass, gospel and fold music, and we must do everything possible to protect them, “said Big Kenny Alphin. “This campaign was founded out of the respect musicians and especially people from Appalachia have for our beloved mountains. We’re calling on everyone to help keep the ‘country’ in country music.
Because of this destructive new form of coal mining, Big Kenny was deeply moved and threw himself, heart and song into an impassioned movement called Music Saves Mountains. Along with artists including Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, Kathy Mattea, Patty Loveless, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Gloriana, James Otto . Big Kenny took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium on May 19, 2009 in the biggest gathering ever to raise awareness about mountaintop removal coal mining Taking his passion about the ravages of mountaintop removal even higher to highlight the heartbreaking issue, Big Kenny took his guitar up to Kayford Mountain to shoot mountaintop removal footage for a PSA.
Since Big Kenny’s awareness of Darfur in 2005, he made his first trip to Southern Sudan in 2007, it went from war, to children being bought out of slavery and then educated under a tree. Accompanied by members of My Sisters Keeper, a non-profit organization focused on assisting, protecting and advocating for the women of southern Sudan, with hopes of shining a light 45km south of the war zone in Darfur. Kenny and Christiev Alphin, returned to Akon, Sudan in 2009 with three planes carrying teachers and doctors, as well as school supplies and pharmaceuticals to help combat their Cholera epidemic. Just 18 months after their first trip, Kenny and his team finished building the Kunyuk School for Girls which now enrolls over 550 registered girls, given them their first chance at an education. “When we went back (2009), right where I saw people take those refugee kits and start to establish themselves. There’s a doctor’s clinic over here. There’s a runway right here. (Previously a dirt road) And right in between them there’s now a little village that exists, when there was nothing when we went there the first time.”
In June of 2009, the school was officially open and dedicated to the village.There are 4 school buildings built, a working health clinic with doctors, teachers are employed and there’s an entire community that has taken the responsibility for the school. As government officials attended the dedication ceremony, they noted that this was the first “cement” structure built just for educating girls in that region. Big Kenny stated, “By giving them a hand up, it’s given them a bigger heart that they can do it; that all children can be educated. They understand that these girls could become the next great leaders of their country, It’s been a great inspiration for that community” In recognition of his efforts, the Save Darfur Coalition named Big Kenny their December 2008 “Darfur Hero.”
UN World Food Programme
Big Kenny writes new Anthem “Heart of Africa” with artist friend Damien Horne. “Heart Of Africa,” a dynamic new anthem celebrating the continent’s first ever World Cup, will have its debut at a special concert in Nairobi July 9, 2009 which will benefit the UN World Food Programme. “Big Kenny was an excellent choice to write this song and perform as he is regarded as a true humanitarian, as his previous work in the Sudan and Uganda bear testament.” said Dr. Bonnie Dunbar , owner of the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden of “Out Of Africa” fame. “Big Kenny underscores the diverse nature of everyone who finds a home in the heart of Africa.”
Kenny spent two days visiting food and school programs in Mathare and Kibera Slums with World Food Programme in Nairobi. “Kenny’s performances were accompanied by the Mathare Community Outreach school children, the Shangilia children, and the song a dance of the Maasai Warriors”
Because of his ongoing commitment to children in need (particularly in Africa), Big Kenny wanted to see the UN World Food Programme in action. To fully understand the importance of the WFP school meals program, the singer/songwriter rolled up his sleeves and helped feed children at the Mathare Community Outreach School in Nairobi. “We’re gratified he took the time to come to Nairobi to support our work.” said Rose Ogola, WFP Public Information Officer in Kenya. We’re grateful that Big Kenny helped raise awareness for our school meals programs, which assist the most vulnerable among us: our children.
“Big Kenny was an inspired choice to write “Heart Of Africa,” said event Executive Producer David Clark, CEO of David Clark Cause, and co-creator of President Mandela’s “46664” initiative. “He is probably the only American country music star who actively promotes causes in Africa; his recent work in Sudan to help build the Kunyuk Girls School and support for the Children’s choir from Uganda are proof enough. This song Big Kenny has created is a true anthem that all Africans can be proud of”
Monday the 11th of January, 2010 Big Kenny received an e-mail from Walt Ratterman a Washington-based specialist in renewable energy who travels all over the world — including with Alphin to Sudan — providing the technology to war-torn countries and impoverished nations. On the day of the earthquake, he was in a meeting with USAID at Hotel Montana in Port au Prince.
On January 20, eight days after the quake, Alphin was in Haiti to look for Ratterman himself. Alphin and a crew of five, including his brother, Christian, flew from Nashville to Miami and then to the Dominican Republic. They rented a van, with a bus full of doctors, driving all evening and into the night. They slept a few hours on the floor of a warehouse, and in the morning the bus took them to the Haitian border. A doctor managed to find the group a ride in a pair of Dominican ambulances headed into Port au Prince to pick up the injured. They dropped Alphin and his crew at the entrance to the Chinese embassy. Eventually a Haitian embassy driver agreed to transport Alphin and his team to the hotel. “They piled all of our stuff in these cars and drove us through the city of collapse,” Alphin said. I’ve got nothing in my lifetime to compare what it looked like. Maybe Hiroshima. There was rubble everywhere.”
At The Hotel Montana, Alphin saw a man in a Fairfax County vest. Kenny, a Virginia native, knew that meant Virginia Task Force 1, one of the premier search-and-recovery teams in the U.S. They’re deployed everywhere, from my backyard in Virginia. Approaching one of them, I said, ‘Dude, Fairfax County Virginia?’ He looks at me and goes, ‘Big Kenny?’ [laughs] He had this look on his face of just amazing awe. I said, ‘Culpeper, Virginia!’ He said, ‘We’re brothers!’. He wanted to know why I was there, so I told him I was there to help and to find my buddy. They immediately took me around the whole site, which were acres. Alphin and his team slept that night on mats in what used to be the hotel parking lot.
Kenny received a email through a radio station in the U.S. regarding a nursing home in Port-au-Prince needing food…”I went down there and loaded up these vehicles with everything from 50lbs bags of rice and beans and cooking oil and fruit … just everything we could pile in there that could sustain them as long as I could until somebody else could get to them. We hauled it back there, set it up, piled it up right there in the middle of the old ladies … got down on my knees and sang them ‘Amazing Grace.’
Compassion International “Help Haiti Live”
Big Kenny hosted The Compassion International’s “Help Haiti Live” fundraising concert. Held February 27, 2010 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. Kenny Alphin’s attention turned to Haiti after the country’s devastating earthquake. He immediately went to Haiti to help search for a friend (Walt Ratterman) who had gone missing after the disaster, and did not survive. Big Kenny returned to the country to entertain and support U.S. troops and others working there in the rebuilding effort.
The Compassion International concert took place simultaneously in Los Angeles. Big Kenny not only hosted the event, he performed along with Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Jars of Clay, Mat Kearney, NEEDTOBREATHE, Brandon Heath, Dave Barnes, and Matt Wertz.
Blackfoot First Nation Tribe
It was a moment the singer-songwriter and humanitarian says he’ll never forget. Big Kenny – his face painted yellow and red — proudly donned a majestic native headdress with black-tipped feathers that pointed to the sun as he was officially accepted into the Blackfoot First Nation Tribe at their annual Pow Wow 2010
A friend suggested he contact Canada’s Blackfoot Confederacy to add the Native American tribal chanting that kicks off his song “Wake Up” on Big Kenny’s solo project “The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farmboy” record. So Kenny emailed them the track. By Thursday they had added their part, and invited Kenny to the Valley of Eden, four hours north of Calgary. Kenny arrived on Friday night, and on Saturday they made a vibrant music video featuring panoramic crane shots — wilderness as far as the eye can see — and over 50 tribe members. “One of whom, Kenny points out, had driven through the night all the way from New Mexico. This experience meant so such to them,” Kenny says. “They were thrilled to be involved.” Alphin still chokes up when he remembers the day, which was documented in a video for his song “Wake Up”
Afterwards, Colorfully adorned men, women and children of four Blackfoot Nation tribes came together to sing sacred powwow songs, recite prayers and dance for ancient spirits in a sacred ritual to make Big Kenny one of their own. . Within hours, the first snowfall came to the valley, just outside the southern Alberta town of Longview, as if summoned by the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the country rocker was anointed with his Blood name, Miistakiis Skomaatii (translation: Mountain Boy). The tribe then prayed over him for about two hours.
Hoping to bring awareness to Native tribes and spotlight the beauty of their culture, Big Kenny joined the Blackfoot Confederacy Drum Group to collaborate on their album, ‘Wake Up.’ The drum group chants the title phrase ‘Wake Up’ on the song of the same name.
Big Kenny TEDx-Nashville
400 people gathered on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at the sold-out inaugural TEDxNashville event, themed “Art + Science: Big Kenny’s theme was to live with “No Fear”– “The ultimate Great War for the battle in the mind is to overcome fear which steals our dreams and allows us to accept suffering like that in Darfur.” Don’t ever be afraid to tell a kid they can make a living with their art.” Big Kenny, who is seeding various humanitarian efforts in stricken areas like the Darfur region of Sudan and Haiti, will speak about how his philosophy and experiences drive his efforts to promote health-related projects all over the world. My mission is to highlight the good, inspire greatness, and encourage mutual responsibility for the betterment of humankind,” says Big Kenny. “I think TEDxNashville is a great place to spread those ideas and I’m excited about being a part of it.” The latest breakthroughs in health and wellness, including the influence of successful artists like Big Kenny and how their popularity can be leveraged to increase awareness of issues that impact the well-being of everyone, will be presented.
A.S.P.I.R.E. Scholarship – ETSU – APPALACHIA
Big Kenny established a scholarship to the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). This donation supported the creation of the “The Alphin Scholarship to Promote the Integration of Research and Environmental Education in Appalachia” (ASPIRE Appalachia). ASPIRE Appalachia’s primary goal is to provide two students at the College of Public Health the opportunity to complete their required field placement by working in an Appalachian community. Focusing their field placement on issues such as clean water; the impact of environmental factors on human health.
“Big Kenny has made a name for himself in the music world, but what’s even more impressive is his world view and desire to help others,” said Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the College of Public Health ETSU.
Kenny presented his inaugural ASPIRE scholarships on Thursday, March 18, 2010. Awarding Jodi Southerland and Jenny Hunt. For the second year, on JUNE 16, 2011 Big Kenny and Dr. Bill Frist’s working with Dean Randy Wykoff of ETSU selected Ms. Karie Castle and Ms. Katie Baker.
The students will focus their field placement on issues such as clean water; the impact of environmental factors on human health; storytelling or music as a vehicle for communicating health messages; understanding the social determinants that impact health in Appalachia; the inter-relationship of education and health, role of charitable programs on health outcomes; or other Appalachia-specific health or environmental topics. The purposes of these placements are consistent with Big Kenny and HTHH’s shared altruistic vision of supporting people in the context of who they are and where they live.
In March 2010 William Kenneth “Big Kenny” Alphin was conferred the status of “Humanitarian Scholar. By the College of Public Health East Tennessee State University.
Operation Finally Home
Big Kenny made an extreme entrance by skydiving into the Nashville show on September 2, 2011. Thirty-thousand feet above, a plane circled, and finally, Big & Rich’s Big Kenny took his leap onto the field below with five other representatives of Operation Finally Home, an organization that honors wounded and disabled veterans and widows of fallen soldiers with new homes. 100% of their proceeds from their September 2, 2011 show at The Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel to Operation Finally Home, a 501(c)3 organization that honors wounded and disabled veterans and widows of fallen soldiers with new homes. “This is a wonderful organization I’ve worked with for years. They have a very simple but very important cause,” said Big Kenny, who first approached his touring partners about the idea. “Building a home is noble, but constructing a home tailored to the needs of a specific injury or disability is one of the things. I’m willing to jump out of a perfectly good plane to raise awareness of the great needs of so many of our returning soldiers!” Kenny showed his support for the organization and the Meadows family again today when he kicked off the ground-breaking ceremony by singing the national anthem after the presentation of the colors by the Tennessee National Guard honor guard. On May 24, 2012, Linville, TN disabled veteran, 31-year old Shawn Meadows and his family are in a new home with the help of country artist Big Kenny from the duo Big & Rich. Shaun Meadows lost both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan nearly four years ago. He now gets around with the help of prosthetic legs. Shaun also recently got the opportunity to skydive, making him the first active duty double amputee to skydive in Air Force history
Inducted into the TENNESSEE STATE MUSEUM
Dir. Lois Riggins-Ezzel of the Tennessee State Museum On November 9, 2012 presented the Museum’s new Costume and Textile Institute inductees. The primary focus of the Costume & Textile Institute is to recognize the fashion achievements of Tennessee based designers and style trendsetters, while continuing to build and properly preserve the State Museum’s rich collection of historic and contemporary fashions. Among the inductee’s is style trendsetter entertainer Big Kenny Alphin.
“Virginia native Big Kenny Alphin, a successful songwriter, artist and rock n’ roll farm boy is one half of the dynamic, award-winning country duo, Big & Rich. Just as Big Kenny exploded on the music scene with the hit song, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” his rock- regal-pirate-cowboy image blended through all music genres and this naturally made him a style icon. The 6’4, fun- loving, talented philanthropist is known for his head turning top hats, renewing the trend with farm boy rock n’ class”
Big & Rich Receives CRS 2013 Artist Humanitarian Award
Country’s rockin’ duo, Big & Rich, were awarded the CRS 2013 Artist Humanitarian Award at Country Radio Seminar on February 27, 2013. Big & Rich’s charitable endeavors date back more than a decade. Their humanitarian efforts have ranged from visiting individual patients in hospitals, to staging benefit concerts for the Country Music Hall of Fame and the 173rd Airborne Memorial, to their well-documented U.S. and international outreach. The duo has made a point throughout their career to help underprivileged children and families in struggling countries like Uganda, Sudan, Haiti and Kenya, among others.
Big Kenny Alphin noted, “I am blessed and I am humbled. I am thankful that I have been able to help in some small ways. Every little act of kindness everyone does, makes our world another step closer to a brighter tomorrow we’re thankful to our great creator and all that are here today.”
“Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich individually and collectively have used their success to set a personal example for all of us to follow as humanitarians,” CRS Executive Director Bill Mayne said. “Their selfless contributions have gone a long way to help make life better for countless men, women, and children, both today and tomorrow.”
St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the 173rd Airborne Memorial Fund, Project Clean Water, Nashville’s Mt. View elementary school, the Special Olympics, Vanderbilt Hospital, Second Harvest Food Bank and the Nashville Symphony are just a few of the causes the chart-topping, Grammy-nominated duo have donated their charitable efforts to.
AFRICAN CHILDREN’S CHOIR
December 3, 2012 “Big Kenny” Alphin, one-half of hit-making duo Big & Rich, became the second U.S. recipient of the African Children’s Choir Malaika Award during a special ceremony. The award was presented to the singer-songwriter for his endless hours of work in Sudan over the past several years. His efforts were rewarded on Monday, December 3, 2012 during the 4th annual Benefit Gala. The goodwill award is considerably the most prestigious form of recognition from the ACC, and is presented only to those who dedicate their time and heart by working on behalf of Africa’s most vulnerable children.
The troop-supporting Alphin was chosen to receive the honor in recognition of his work in the Sudan. The African Children’s Choir presented the Malaika Award to Alphin during its 4th Annual Benefit Gala in New York City on Dec. 3, 2012. To date, five individuals have been presented with the Malaika Award including Rt. Hon Gordon Brown MP, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; President George Bush for his approval of legislation combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Africa, and most recently, to Sir Bob Geldorf. The African Children’s Choir is made up of children from the poorest countries of the world that have lost one or both parents to poverty or disease. Since its 1984 inception, more than 52,000 children have been educated through the efforts of the choir’s programs and 100,000-plus people have been helped through their relief and development programs throughout the seven countries the organization serves.