It’s not everyday a Grammy award-winning phenom sings the praises of local firefighters, but that’s exactly what country music heavyweight Dwight Yoakam did at a concert at the Hollywood Palladium. He not only commended those who ran into burning buildings when others were running out, but he also lauded the efforts of the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
Dwight spoke so highly of the charity and its supporters, even Jim Dolan, a retired 31-year-veteran firefighter, was a bit surprised by the accolades. “He went on for a while about the charity at the concert and said so many great things about us, I couldn’t help but wonder: Are we paying him for this?” Jim says with a laugh. Widows & Orphans didn’t pay the honky tonk man for his kind words, but the charity did organize the auction for the special VIP concert package Dwight graciously donated to one lucky winner.
The winning bid offered one music lover and three of their guests to join Dwight at the meet and greet before the concert, as well as premiere VIP seats during the show. So when one of LAFD’s own — firefighter Will Nevins from Fire Station No. 26 — placed the highest bid, it was an even bigger cause for celebration.
Will had never participated in a Widows & Orphans charity auction before, but when he saw the VIP package, he thought it was a great opportunity to see a legendary superstar and support a wonderful cause. “It was a great show! I had fun just hanging out with my wife and our buddies, listening to good music in Hollywood.”
Although the meet and greet moved quickly, Will and his wife enjoyed getting a chance to chat with Dwight and grab a photo with him before he took the stage. The concert included an endearing mix of old and new songs, blending fan favorites with soon-to-be classics. It was at the end of the event, when Dwight returned to the stage for an encore, that he explained to the crowd why that night’s performance was so important.
“He waited for the crowd to quiet down and then he told the audience that the concert was for the Widows & Orphans charity,” Jim shares. “He told everyone this is something you really need to get involved with and thank firefighters who do such brave work. He deflected all of the applause away from himself and toward the charity. It was really a special moment.”
And Jim wasn’t the only one who recognized it was special moment. When Dwight finished his praise for the men and women who risk their lives to save others, the crowd erupted with cheers and gave the charity (and Dwight) a standing ovation.
The self-described Hillbilly rocker may have earned a loyal following for his amazing career as one of the greatest country music artists around, but on that day, Dwight shined the spotlight on others who don’t always get to enjoy such applause. “He feels strongly about supporting firefighters,” explains Austin Hegarty, Dwight’s media strategy assistant at ROAR, an entertainment brand management company. “He wanted to raise awareness for the [charity] organization in particular, as he greatly appreciates the work the charity is doing for those who support our city.”
By Candace Nicholson