Dustin Lynch

Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hope Sartain had a little fun with Dustin Lynch during a meet-and-greet opportunity before his annual benefit concert at Tullahoma High School on Tuesday night.

Twenty-five thousand dollars were raised and a mountain of toys were collected thanks to Tullahoma graduate, hometown hero and Grand Ole Opry member Dustin Lynch.

For the fifth year in a row, Tullahoma played host to a roundtable of country music heavyweights for the Dustin Lynch & Friends Benefit Concert. The annual concert, held in the high school auditorium, raises money to help children’s charities in Tullahoma and Coffee County and assists the Tullahoma Fire Department’s Toys for Tots campaign each year.

This year’s financial beneficiaries were Tullahoma Day Care and the Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center (CCCAC), with each organization receiving a record $12,500 donation from the concert proceeds.

“For me to be here and be able to shine a little light on those two places is a wonderful thing,” Lynch said before the concert kicked off.

Tullahoma Day Care has been serving the community for more than 50 years, Lynch said, providing child care to working families who need the assistance.

The Advocacy Center assists children who have experienced abusive situations in getting the counseling they need.

“We want to raise them up tonight,” Lynch said. “That’s the real reason we are here tonight.”

Lynch, who was raised in Tullahoma, said he felt like being able to give back to his community in this way every year was both a “duty” and a joy, as he has the ability to help.

“It’s honestly, I feel, a little bit of my duty,” he said. “I’ve been given such a great platform; I’ve been blessed to be able to chase my dreams, and that comes from having a great foundation at home.”

Lynch’s concert has generated almost $100,000 for children in the community through a number of different charities, including The Tullahoma News’ Karing for Kids, 5 Loaves 4 Kids, CASA Works Inc. and Horse Play Inc. through the years.

Lynch always tries to pick different charities to benefit each year, but having continued the tradition for five years now, he said he’ll have to start repeating charities soon enough.

“I’ve tried to mix it up,” he said. “What’s great is we’ve done this long enough that I’m going to start having repeat offenders, so that’s good.”

That longevity of tradition is always a good thing, as it forces Lynch to keep improving upon the previous years’ shows.

“It’s wonderful,” Lynch said of putting on the concert five years in a row. “We keep trying to top the year before; raise the bar over and over again.”

As is tradition, Lynch was joined on stage by fellow country music songwriters for a round-robin performance of each writers’ hit songs.

This year’s performers were Paul Overstreet, Wendell Mobley, Justin Ebach and up-and-coming country signer Lauren Alaina. This was the first year Lynch brought a touring musician with him on stage.

Each of Lynch’s guests were new faces to grace the stage of the THS auditorium, Lynch said.

“We’ve got all first-timers,” he said. “They have no idea what’s going on.”

Each of the five songwriters told stories and cracked jokes in between songs they’d written either for themselves or for country music legends like Randy Travis (“Diggin Up Bones”), Rascal Flatts (“Take Me There”), Carrie Underwood (“I Know You Won’t”) and Kenny Chesney (“How Forever Feels”).

The whole night was designed to be “epic,” according to Lynch, because the THS auditorium is still one of the few places where he feels butterflies.

“This and the Opry,” Lynch said were the only two places left that gave him that feeling.

After presenting the checks to Tullahoma Day Care’s Emma Coleman and Bethany Arnold of Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center, Lynch repeated his pledge to continue the concerts as long as he can.

“They ask me every year if I want to keep doing this,” he said, “and the answer is absolutely we’re going to keep doing this as long as you’ll have us.”

For more information on Tullahoma Day Care, visit the website at tullahomadaycare.com. More information on the advocacy center can be found at www.coffeecountycac.org.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.