When the news came that vaccines were beginning to be found, most people probably envisioned lab coats, test tubes, vials of goodness-only-knows what, and all the assorted paraphernalia. What would you say if I threw a blonde-haired, bedazzled country singer into the mix? Dolly Parton, a long-time icon of mine, was a key part in funding the first vaccine to have been found with a 95% success rate. Dolly donated $1 million throughout the pandemic, forming what has been annotated as the ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’.
So how did she become involved with research science? In 2013, Dolly was involved in a car accident in Nashville, which, although not serious, meant that she spent some time working with doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre on her recovery. During that time, she met Professor Naji Abumrad, with whom a friendship soon began. When the coronavirus crisis struck, Dolly began donating to Vanderbilt, which the leading scientist on the research team says funded the ‘critical’ earliest stages of the creation and testing of the vaccine.
Her fans, understandably, loved it. Social media, news and the general buzz have been overwhelmed with love for Dolly, with many stating that she did more to help America (and the world) through Covid-19 than Donald Trump did as President of the United States. In June, a petition even gained 23,000 signatures to replace all of Tennessee’s Confederate statues with icons of Ms Parton herself. She even brought out a single this year, reflecting upon the pandemic, political unrest and worldwide suffering that 2020 has really brought to the forefront. The song is called ‘When Life Is Good Again” (available on Spotify, Youtube, Deezer, Apple Music and all other streaming services) and tells us that:
When life is good again
I’ll be a better friend
A bigger person when
Life is good again
More thoughtful than I’ve been
I’ll be so different then
More in the moment when
Life is good again.
I don’t think it would be too big of an ask to keep these elements in mind when, thanks to Dolly Parton, we are able to experience life when it is ‘good again’. The post-pandemic world could be more open-hearted, more thoughtful and more present, appreciating the nuances of life that we have missed this year – being able to hug a relative, finally seeing friends and family in person, going to those places that we’ve missed and been able to live free from fear of the virus.
There are always cynics out there who say, “So what? She’s a celebrity. She should be giving her money away!” In a world where some human beings have a higher net worth than some entire countries (seriously: see Jeff Bezos’ $182 billion and countries like Dominica and Gambia), Dolly gives an astounding amount away. She has an entire Dollywood Foundation set up to do so, established in 1988. For example, her initiative Imagination Library gives a child a free book every month until they are age five throughout the U.S, Canada and UK. This was a tribute to her father, who himself never was able to read or write, and loved the fact that Dolly could. She has donated millions to funding medical centres and the Monroe Carell Jr. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, supported victims of the Tennessee wildfires in 2016 with $9 million, as well as sharing her wealth with a huge variety of causes, from HIV charities to animal rights organisations.
As of 2020, her net worth was estimated to be about $500 million, but with the amount that she gives away, a considerable dent has already been made. It’s been suggested that the only reason that Parton is not a billionaire is because of the sheer amount of donations made.
During a speech, Dolly said, ‘Together we can all dream more, learn more, care more and be more.’ It’s on that note that I’ll end this homage to Dolly Parton. We could all stand to dream more and act to achieve those dreams. Learning more is something that I’m always an advocate of, because knowledge is absolutely a gift. After this pandemic, caring more should be the default – after all, many didn’t make it this far. We should cherish those who did. As for being more, Parton said, ‘Find out who you are and do it on purpose’. Be more Dolly (and get vaccinated!).