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Country & Football Collide to Make Kids’ Wishes Come True

Donn Jones Photography

Rascal Flatts‘ Jay DeMarcus, Jerrod Niemann, Dierks Bentley, Big Kenny and more than a dozen NFL stars traded their day jobs on Tuesday to say, “May I take your order?” The celebs donned crisp, white uniforms to wait tables at downtown Nashville’s famed Palm restaurant for former Tennessee Titan Kevin Carter’s annual ‘Waiting for Wishes‘ event.

The 10th annual dinner, hosted by Kevin and Jay, drew heavyweights from the worlds of sports and entertainment, with NFL players including the New York Jets’ Tony Richardson, the New York Giants’ Keith Bulluck, the Minnesota Vikings’ Sage Rosenfels, and the Titans’ Jacob Ford, Kerry Collins, Rob Bironas and Marc Mariani mixing it up with Holly Williams, actor Jonathan Schaech and singer-songwriter Gary Chapman to raise money for the Kevin Carter Foundation and Make-a-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

“I’m so excited to be here; it’s an amazing charity event,” Jerrod told the Boot just before waiting on his first table. “What’s great is I’m just learning about this event as I go by talking to people who’ve done it before, and I’ve met some of these guys from the NFL tonight who’ve done it for eight years, so it just shows you how great those guys are to dedicate their time. I’m excited to help raise money for the foundation, but also to meet a lot of these players. I grew up playing football, and also being a fan, so it’s pretty cool to see these guys and also to see how big-hearted they are.”

During a VIP event in the Palm’s bar, attendees were able to get pictures and autographs with some of their favorite stars before the excitement turned to the dining room, where WKRN-TV sportscaster and Make-a-Wish board member John Dwyer welcomed the crowd. “The Make a Wish foundation is about to grant their 1000th wish in Middle Tennessee,” said Dwyer. “And it is not overstated that without Kevin Carter and his generosity, and your generosity, that there is no way we would be near 1000 without Kevin Carter and the people in this room tonight, so thank you. For children with life threatening illnesses, you have granted wishes — not trips, not room makeovers, you grant wishes — a magical experience for children going through a living you-know-what. You have affected not dozens, but hundreds of people right here in this community. And know that tonight all that you are doing is going to succeed in that mission.”

Dwyer then introduced a 12-year-old boy who has a brand-new basketball court at his house, thanks to Make-a-Wish. His tearful mom took the mic to tell her son’s amazing story of surviving leukemia, and to happily report that he is now in remission and will undergo his last chemotherapy treatment next week.

Following an introduction of the impressive, star-studded wait staff for the evening, patrons were served a delicious surf-and-turf meal and tended to by the smiling, jovial group of celebrities, who were obviously having just as much fun as the ticket holders. Footballs were being signed, and grown men were rushing around with grins like little kids on Christmas morning at the event, thrilled to be meeting their gridiron heroes as well as some country royalty throughout the evening’s festivities. A silent auction featuring one-of-a-kind items such as handwritten lyrics to a Tim McGraw song, a plaque signed by Dolly Parton, and a ticket package to the Dierks Bentley Miles and Music motorcycle ride no doubt drew plenty of funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee and enabled dozens more critically ill children in the Nashville area to see their wishes and dreams come to life. Attendees left not only with full bellies, but satisfied, full hearts as well, knowing they had contributed to such a great cause thanks, to Kevin Carter and his generous friends.

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