As if Dolly Parton wasn’t already one of America’s most beloved national treasures, her donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for COVID-19 research certainly cements that distinction, especially in light of the encouraging results that have come out of Vanderbilt’s collaboration with Moderna Inc.
Those research organizations along with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health announced Monday their newly developed vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to the joural, Nature.
Parton, 74, is no stranger to philanthropy, and largely focuses her generosity on her home state of Tennessee, so it makes sense that she would donate to Vanderbilt University’s research.
On April 1, the singer-songwriter tweeted about her donation:
According to a press release from Vanderbilt University, Parton told NBC’s Today Show, she hoped the money could help find a treatment until a viable vaccine was available. She said, “What better time right now? We need this. I felt like this was the time for me to open my heart and my hand, and try to help.”
Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said of Parton in a statement, “She cares so much about helping others and we are very grateful for her ongoing support. These funds will help us complete promising research that can benefit millions in their battle with the virus.”
There Are Still Unanswered Questions About Moderna’s Vaccine but Experts Are Optimistic
While there are still some unknowns about Moderna’s vaccine — “It is not clear how long the vaccine’s protective effects last; whether it can block people from transmitting the virus; or whether the vaccine works as well in higher-risk groups such as older adults,” according to Nature, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, “The results of this trial are truly striking.”
With a reported vaccine efficacy of 94.5%, Fauci said the results surpassed his expectations.
“I’d like to say I would have predicted it, but I would not have. Honestly, I would not have expected that. I thought that was too much to hope for,” he told Stat News. Fauci has said even a COVID-19 vaccine that was 70% to 75% effective would’ve been satisfactory.
And while Nature reported there are still some aspects of the vaccine that need more study, Fauci told Stat News, “It wasn’t as if the only people who were protected were the young people. There were people in the elderly, there were people in the minorities.” He said efficacy was “really consistent across all groups.”
Parton has Been Involved in Philanthropy for Decades & Wrote a Song Called ‘When Life is Good Again’ About When the Pandemic Is Over
According to a Timeline of Parton’s Philanthropy on MSN, “In addition to [The Dollywood] foundation, Parton has contributed funds to a number of charitable organizations outside the Dollywood umbrella, including the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Save the Music Foundation and the Boot Campaign, an organization that donates proceeds to military veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries.”
A spin-off of the Dollywood Foundation is the Imagination Library, which started in 1995 and has grown monumentally since its inception. The organization started by donating books to young children in Tennessee’s Sevier County and 25 years later, the organization donates free books to children around the world who are under 5. Currently, the Imagination Library “sends more than one million books per month to children around the world inspiring them to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More,” according to The Imagination Library website.
Her charitable works also focus on getting Tennessee teens to finish high school by offering monetary incentives and college scholarships. Parton’s Foundation also gives the Chasing Rainbows award, in which Parton personally gives an annual award to a teacher who has “overcome obstacles in his/her life and is making a difference in the lives of children,” according to that website.
And prior to gifting the Vanderbilt University Medical Center $1 million for COVID-19 research, in 2017, she donated another $1 million to “Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Pediatric Cancer Program in honor of Abumrad and her niece, Hannah Dennison, who was successfully treated for leukemia as a child at Children’s Hospital,” according to the university.
In 2016 the “Jolene” singer created the My People Fund through her Dollywood Foundation to help families who were devastated or lost their homes from wildfires that ravaged the Great Smokey Mountains.
According to the Imagination Library, “In May of 2017, the Foundation concluded the distribution with the announcement that over $411,000,000 had been raised and given to the families who lost their homes. Additional funds raised also provided one-time scholarships to high school seniors whose homes were lost to the fires.”
But Parton doesn’t just give money. She gives hope toward a brighter future with her music and her outlook on life. In May she wrote a new song that looks forward to when the coronavirus pandemic is behind us called, “When Life Is Good Again.”
In the song, she says in part:
We’ve been brought to our knees
We’ve been so ill at ease
There are no guarantees
But you know life goes on
This too shall pass away
Bring new and different days
We need to change our ways
And right our wrongs
Let’s open up our hearts
And let the whole world in
Let’s try to make amends
When life is good again