When award-winning singer Kelly Clarkson first visited patients, families and staff at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in 2012, not only did she shake people’s hands, but she was quick to hug the people she met, affectionately saying, “Hi, I’m Kelly.”
The warmth and strength Clarkson emanates on stage and in her songs were eminently apparent in her personal interactions with patients and families. Clarkson, who calls Nashville home, believes in raising awareness and backing a top pediatric health care facility in her “backyard.”
The first of Clarkson’s visits and support of Children’s Hospital came not long after she chose to make Nashville her “adopted hometown,” as she was already looking to give back to her community. A close friend, Shane Tarleton, was a volunteer for a nonprofit organization called Musicians On Call, which has for years brought musicians to the bedsides of sick children at Children’s Hospital to share the healing power of music. Tarleton arranged for Clarkson to perform a holiday show for the children in December 2012.
Clarkson brought in an interior design group, Iron Gate, to create a magical winter wonderland for the performance inside the Children’s Hospital Theatre. For children too sick to attend her performance, she spent several hours going room-to-room, donning a Santa hat and red sweater and bringing along her guitarist to perform patient song requests.
“It was really heartwarming how everyone came together to try and give these children a special experience during the holidays, the worst time to be hospitalized,” Clarkson said. “Hopefully, we gave these families a few moments of distraction from what they are dealing with. We had a great time connecting with the kids and their families.”
Clarkson’s support of Children’s Hospital has extended well beyond the first visit. She partnered with Musicians On Call once again in December 2014 to sing carols as well as some of her own music at Children’s Hospital.
“I loved the experience I had at Vanderbilt. The kids are always so inspiring, but the staff really is, too. I was really taken by how impressive everyone who works there is and how passionate they are about their jobs at every level,” Clarkson said.
“There is a special bond formed when people sing together, and I am fortunate that I get to experience that with these sweet, innocent children. I benefit from it every bit as much as they do. The perspective it brings is a perfect reset button.”
Also in December 2014, Clarkson spearheaded Miracle on Broadway, an annual Christmas benefit concert held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to support local charities, including Children’s Hospital.
“When we were choosing charities to donate to for Miracle on Broadway, we knew we had to include the Children’s Hospital. The hospital represents Nashville so well and I was especially excited to learn that Children’s Hospital doesn’t turn away any family who can’t afford their care,” she said.
Clarkson’s gift will go toward the Growing to New Heights Campaign, a philanthropic effort to help realize a four-floor expansion atop existing Children’s Hospital structure.
“I support anything that makes life easier for the patients and staff at the hospital,” she said. “It’s the least I can do, and if attaching my name to anything can somehow bring awareness to the needs of the hospital, I’m all in. Expanding means growth, and growth means more patients in need are helped.”
Since her first visit to Children’s Hospital, Clarkson and her husband, talent manager Brandon Blackstock, have welcomed two children: River Rose, 2, and son, Remington Alexander, born April 12.
“It’s a comforting feeling to know that such a renowned Children’s Hospital is right up the street from my house. And I’ve seen firsthand how helpful and kind the staff is. There is no better or more trusted place I would take my children,” she said. “Obviously, there are things I think about now that just weren’t in the forefront of my mind before children. Now, my No. 1 priority in life is my children’s health. I would only take my children to the best, and I’m glad that the best is in my city.”
– by Christina Echegaray