By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Her latest hit is She Colors My Day , about mothers, but Nashville's Amy Grant could have written the song for the Iraq and Afghanistan war wounded she looks out for as part of a nationwide bid to raise awareness of the problems vets face at home. An established star who's married to another, Vince Gill, Grant could just sit tight and count her dollars, but instead she's a philanthropic powerhouse who's now devoting her energies to Challenge America, a group that helps wounded vets find work, housing, and fun.
"It's been very rewarding that I've got to do something I love my entire lifetime. This is my way of giving back," she tells Whispers.
A Christian singer who lends her voice to many issues, including fighting breast cancer and homelessness, her latest passion is wounded vets who often return home to little support from local communities and businesses. "They all feel like milkweeds in the wind," says Grant of the vets. Many people and businesses would like to help but don't know how, she says.
Her goal: Through Challenge America, a spinoff of Challenge Aspen, formed to help handicapped troops learn to ski, Grant is working to build a national, Internet-based clearinghouse that will help communities and businesses hook up with wounded troops who are in need of housing, bank loans, jobs, or just a night out on the town. "It's like a grass fire," she says. "We want it to be viral." And instead of adding more programs for vets, Challenge America's focus is shining the spotlight on existing programs and helping veterans find them.
Grant was in Washington yesterday to promote the group's biggest event yet: a June 8 Kennedy Center concert featuring her Nashville pals to raise money and awareness for the issue. She described it as a kind of Nashville unplugged event where she, Gill, Alison Krauss, Michael McDonald, Darius Rucker, Mac McAnally, and Melinda Doolittle will sit in a half-circle and jam for the audience. "It will be pretty fun—spontaneous and unrehearsed. We'll probably be making fun of each other," she says.
Tickets are still on sale for $50, $75, and $95. Pay $500 for "Golden Circle" seats and you get a reception with the brown-haired beauty and her posse. And don't dress up. "It's not black tie. My husband will be in jeans," she says.
Washington big shots and Pentagon brass have been invited, but it's the music and stories of the wounded troops that will headline the night.
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