Local officials, volunteers and supporters joined with country music artist Reba McEntire Friday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Reba’s Ranch House. For the past 25 years, Reba’s Ranch House has served as a home away from home for many families visiting loved ones in the hospital.
In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the charity, the event also commemorated the 30th anniversary of McEntire's first benefit concert for Texoma Medical Center in Denison. The concert, which eventually became a Memorial Day tradition, would go on to support the creation of the ranch house, which continues service today.
“Today is a celebration of all great things past, a celebration of today and a celebration of the service and dedication for the future,” Texoma Health Foundation Chairman Brett Graham said, noting that 2017 will also mark the 10th anniversary of the Texoma Health Foundation.
In honor of the anniversary, McEntire made a surprise appearance at the event. Graham said some people already knew she was in town after she performed a secret concert at Loose Wheels in Denison Thursday night.
“The last 25 years have been a lot of fun,” McEntire said during the event, referencing the concerts, charity events and parades she has participated in over the years.
The idea for the concert started in 1986 when she visited her doctor, Darius Maggi. During a lunch following an appointment, Maggi asked her whether there was a way she could put on an event to help support Texoma Medical Center. From there, the first concert was organized and held the following fall.
“It was real fun to see the community come and join together,” McEntire said, referring to the support for that concert.
From there, the event shifted its focus to creating a place where families can stay close to loved ones who are staying in the hospital, similar to facilities operated by the Ronald McDonald House Charities, she said.
Kris McKinney, who served as the first chair for Reba’s Development Committee, said she could still remember the first concert concert McEntire performed with the Mason Dixon band at the Eisenhower Auditorium in Denison High School.
“From the moment she started singing, our lives in Texomaland were forever changed,” McKinney said.
Following the concert, Reba returned to perform 11 more times over the years. The concert continued to grow each year, necessitating its move to the football stadium and eventually North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field. The event went on to become a who’s who of country music over the years with performances by Brooks & Dunn, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill, among others, THF CEO Michelle Lemming said.
Through these concerts, the charity was able to build two homes over the years — one located near the former TMC building and one adjacent to the current campus.
As a part of Friday’s festivities, officials with the Texoma Health Foundation unveiled “The House that Reba Built” — a written history of the charity that has been installed in the wall of the current ranch house. The display features concert posters for each of Reba’s concert appearances in Denison.
“So now, visitors to the ranch house can read the history, see the posters and learn how this home away from home came to be,” McKinney said.