“Twenty-six years ago is when Hannah was diagnosed with leukemia and for five years we didn’t know if we’d be keeping her or not,” said Dolly Parton on Thursday, May 17th, in an auditorium at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. “But Hannah now stands here as our chemo hero. She shows that miracles do happen with good care, great doctors, and great nurses.”
The legendary country singer was referring to Hannah Dennison, her niece. For Hannah’s 30th birthday, she and her aunt visited the hospital that saved her life as a child. In front of an audience of doctors, nurses, patients and families, Parton donated $1 million to the hospital.
“They took such good care of her and just looking at the little faces of the kids going through this and the parents who suffer so much as well; it’s just touching and moving,” said Parton. “If you’re in a position where you can do something, you should do something.”
That is Parton’s general philosophy in life. The country singer has been a big name in American philanthropy for her entire career. Her charitable foundation, Dollywood, provides free books to more than three quarters of a million children and hundreds of libraries, supports hospitals and wildlife conservation, and backs charity drives to help the victims of natural disasters.
Parton decided she would make this donation to mark a landmark in her niece’s life a year ago, when she visited Vanderbilt to release her children’s album, I Believe in You. The album was targeted at children who face heavy challenges in life, such as illness and bullying… children like Hannah.
As a demonstration of gratitude for the donation, Vanderbilt dedicated their rooftop butterfly garden to Hannah Dennison..
“Now that we have Hannah’s butterfly garden, we may come up and do little shows now and then and bring some joy to the kids,” said Parton, raising her guitar.