17 April 2017 GS Jade Barrett International Bridge Press Association
Five months ago, a terrible fire intentionally set devastated one of the most beautiful places on Earth - the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Chimney Tops Fire, Gatlinburg TN 28 NOV 2016.
Gatlinburg is commonly known as the gateway to the park, with over 11 million visitors a year passing through or residing for a week or so in the many timeshares and rental homes that surround the quaint but vibrant village. It is also home to the world's largest annual week long bridge tournament, typically generating over 9000 - and sometimes well over ten thousand - tables over the seven days. Gatlinburg is the destination for the best players in the world, as typically athletes from over 40 different countries come to compete for love and glory since this - as with virtually all American Contract Bridge League events - is not a prize money tournament.
Favorite daughter Dolly Parton, the country music legend, has been among those leading fundraising efforts for victims. She started the My People Fund and raised $9.3 million, most coming from a telethon in which many of her country music friends appeared. A total of 884 families received their first monthly $1,000 checks through the fund. People who lost their primary residences are eligible to receive the $1,000 a month for six months. - Knoxville News Sentinel 28 December 2016
What all players have is a love relationship with this tiny city. Within a month after the fires the ACBL Charity Foundation presented Dolly Parton's My People's Fund $25,000 to assist with helping some of those residents who are rebuilding. Other individual players have donated through different online fundraisers and through personal gifts to the city, all told over $100,000 through charity events operated by many of the local bridge organizations that operate in the USA Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
ACBL Charity Foundation Donation to the My People Fund; L-R: Bill Waters (Pres. of Unit 165), Natasha Brown (ACBL Headquarters); DOLLY; Kelley Trejo (ACBL Charity Foundation); Pete Misslin (Gatlinburg Regional Co-Chair).
From my apartment high above the city, there is a large amount of green, but many of the surrounding mountain tops remain blackened, a visual reminder of the arson generated raging wildfire that threatened the entire town, incinerating over seventeen hundred acres and claiming thirteen souls.
A month after the November fire, the clean-up was well underway.
The players are gathering, the competitions begin in earnest on 17 April and will continue through the 23rd. This is a time where those of us who compete against each other are also happy to being able to accomplish something together to assist the little Tennessee city that has been a welcoming home to us one week every year for decades.
GS Jade Barrett with Dr Donna Wood and about 70 other Yabberz members will be enjoying their favorite tournament once again this year.