Millions of country fans learned a new definition of "hero" last week. Taste of Country joined 16 Townsquare Media-owned country radio stations to raise $1.4 million for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Every dollar raised recalled a name, a face and a story.

And there were some great stories.

Day 2 (March 6) featured interviews with Randy Owen and Josh Abbott Band frontman Josh Abbott. Perhaps more powerful were stories from patients named Jessica, Markell, Slade and Ethan.

Ethan McDonald actually isn't a St. Jude patient. The 12-year-old just heard the deejays at WGNA in Albany, N.Y. talking about kids who need help, so he stepped up. The Pittsfield, Mass. native had $11 to his name, so he paid it forward.

“I think people should donate, because I honestly don’t think anyone should suffer, or go through pain, or die really young,” McDonald says.

Jessica is technically no longer a St. Jude patient, although the hospital always looks after those they helped years or even decades ago. The 27-year-old mother to 2-year-old Ruth visited WKDQ-FM in Evansville, Ind. to talk about her experience 25 years ago. She had cancer as a baby, but now that she’s a mother all that she can think about is, “What if?”

“I see all the blessings that I’ve been given. All the blessings and all the hope that places like St. Jude give to people,” she says as Ruth blows kisses to the deejays interviewing her mother. “And I’m just so grateful.”

Slade’s love of reptiles and Markell’s infectious smile made listeners smile. More importantly, their stories gave families hope while perhaps inspiring a few to become Partners in Hope. Musicians like Jason Springer in Texarkana, Ark., were moved to write original songs after meeting a few kids touched by St. Jude. ‘For the Children’ tells the story of so many young boys and girls who walk into the Memphis, Tenn., hospital afraid, only to soon find comfort in the brightly decorated rooms and generous smiles of the doctors and nurses.

These individual efforts are at the heart of the clock that makes St. Jude tick. They are the heroes, and they're who we're supporting. If you were touched by one of these stories — and honestly, who didn't tear up listening to 'She Heard His Voice'? — consider donating to St. Jude or becoming a partner in hope. It's a small monthly donation, as little as $20 per month. This month, ToC readers and listeners from our radio partners proved that one small act of kindness can make a big difference.

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