Society

Dolly Parton Helps Tennessee Wildfire Victims

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Country singer Dolly Parton has kept her promise to assist victims of the devastating wildfires in Tennessee during November 2016.

After a wildfire struck Gatlinburg on Nov. 28, killing 14 people and damaging or destroying more than 2,400 structures, Parton made the decision to help those affected, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The Dollywood Foundation created a website for donations, and "the next morning we woke up to $1 million," foundation president David Dotson said.

Parton said that the Dollywood Foundation would give $1,000 each month for six months to families who were critically affected by the wildfires, according to WGHP.

The My People Fund, set up by Parton, received 80,000 donations in December and January. A telethon, titled "Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund," aired in December and raised nearly $9 million for wildfire victims. Parton and other big-name country stars participated.

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The donations have allowed the fund to issue checks in the amount of $1,000 every month for six months to 921 Sevier County residents, as Parton promised.

There were 1,275 people who applied to receive aid, of which 227 were rejected and 150 did not respond after completing the initial application. Of the remaining 75, some received other assistance, Dotson said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The Tennessee wildfires began in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ultimately spread to other areas. It was determined that teenagers playing with matches were responsible, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The two boys, aged 17 and 15, were hiking on a trail and tossed lit matches onto the ground, sources said. A photo of the teens walking away from the trail with smoke in the background was captured by a hiker.

The clothes the boys were wearing helped authorities identify them. The older boy is, according to a source, the son of an Anderson County Sheriff's Office employee. Both boys were charged in juvenile court with aggravated arson.

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At the time of the boys' arrest in December 2016, Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said "additional charges are being considered and all options are on the table, including transfer of these juveniles to adult Criminal Court."

In February 2017, Tennessee officials refused to release any additional information on the status of the case against the boys, according to AL.com.

"All of the information regarding this case that can legally be shared has already been made available," Dunn said.

The cost of damage from the wildfires is expected to be more than $800 million.

Sources: WGHP, Knoxville News Sentinel (2), AL.com / Photo credit: pipilongstockings/Flickr

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