The Edmond Sun

May 30, 2013

Heartland concert helps in healing tornado wounds

By Michael Kinney
CNHI News Service

OKLA. CITY — It was a night of stars. From Blake Shelton to Miranda Lambert to Usher, the Healing in the Heartland benefit concert was all about some of the biggest names in the music industry lending their talents to raise money Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

However, it was a young girl very few had ever heard of that stole the show. The story of Alyson Costilla and how her mother was killed in the May 20 tornado that ravaged Moore was told through a video in the arena. When it was over, Costilla appeared on stage with Shelton and spoke the words concert organizers hoped the night was all about.

“When bad things happen, good people step up to help,” Costilla said. That brought a standing ovation and a few tears were shed.

Shelton, a native Oklahoman, organized the benefit show that was shown live nationally on NBC. He announced it Thursday and it was sold out in five minutes Friday morning.

Oklahoma City resident Clint Morris bought tickets for himself and his 4-year-old son Garrett so they could experience it together.

“The bands are good,” Morris said. “And it’s a good opportunity to see everybody and, of course, give back to the community. And it’s special to experience it with my son.”

More than 14,000 people who braved the harsh Oklahoma weather got to see Darius Rucker, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Ryan Tedder, Rascal Flatts and Lambert perform.

Along with performances, the show featured video spots from Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Garth Brooks, Jay Leno and others.

“This fundraiser will benefit our agencies,” said Barbara Royce, a United Way volunteer. “We want the best for all the recovery folks in Moore and the surrounding cities.”

“We have had calls all week. All week. It’s generosity from Pittsburgh, American employees in Japan, little kids calling with donations. The support has been incredible. This is just the best.”

The finals numbers on how much was raised was not ready by the time the concert ended. But the people were told where it was going.  

“All the proceeds from the tickets that have been sold tonight are going to go to the United Way’s main tornado fund,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “Every dollar that’s been raised tonight is going to stay in Oklahoma. Everyone here tonight is making a difference.”

Fallin was one of several local dignitaries who spoke to the crowd before the concert began. They included Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis and Oklahoma City businessman David Thompson.

“We thank all of you across the nation and even the world for your caring thoughts and generosity you have expressed in support for the survivors of the tragedy,” Thompson said. “Most importantly tonight, for all of you who have been devastated by this disaster, you are not alone. We are all standing with you and helping you recover. We will rebuild.”

The hour-long show ended with Shelton and Usher singing a duet together.

When the TV cameras were cut off, Usher put on his Healing in the Heartland T-shirt as he, Shelton and contestants from the TV show “The Voice” kicked off an impromptu mini-concert that lasted almost as long. Shelton, McEntire, Lambert, Rucker and the rest of the singers each performed several songs from their own catalog.

The Healing in the Heartland concert isn’t going to solve the problems of those who were affected by the May 20th tornadoes. It wasn’t supposed to. But it was a brief diversion from the massive amount of work that’s going to be needed to put Moore back together.

“We have had a really tough week,” Fallin said. “We’ve been knocked down, but we are back on our feet. We’ve come together to help each other, helping rebuild stronger communities. We’re going to help build a stronger state. That is what being Oklahoma strong is all about. We are strong, Oklahoma.”