The fact that Garth Brooks is playing at Steve Wynn's Encore Theatre here in Las Vegas became public in October and it was big news. Of course, whenever someone signs a five-year deal to do about 300 shows in this city, it's news. Even when the details are different it's news. It happened when Céline, Elton, Bette and Cher signed on to play The Colesseum at Caesars Palace and it happened when Brooks signed. Throw in the airplane Wynn used to clinch the deal and it's bigger news. Add to that the fact that this is Brooks' first regular gig since announcing his retirement in 2000 and it's enormous news. Garth Brooks was coming back and his fans worldwide rejoiced.
Among the celebrants is Joanne Downey.
Downey is owner of Las Vegas Celebrity Services, accompany that provides a range of services to celebrities or those who wish to live like one.
A native of Astoria, NY, who moved to Las Vegas from Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, Downey has plenty of experience is catering to the needs of others. She worked for several years as a corporate event planner and, early in her career, even ran Tom Jones' fan clubs for his label, Parrot Records.
She did fan club work for Peter Lemongello (remember him?) and worked with a New York restaurateur promoting talent.
A music lover, Downey discovered Garth Brooks and became a fan when she heard his song The Dance which, though released in 1990, is still her favorite. When she heard Brooks would be playing in Las Vegas prior to resuming his touring in 2014 (when his children are all out of high school), she was ecstatic. She has front row center seats in a couple of weeks and was kind enough to accompany me when I went to review his show Saturday night.
Between the time Brooks announced he'd be playing here and opening night, Downey had an idea.
"I've know for a long time that Garth has a charity called Teammates for Kids. One of their slogans is, '100 % of the money goes to the kids. That's not a goal...it's the rule!'
"It was established in 1999 for the purpose of contributing financially to selected not-for-profits that are effective in serving, thus benefiting, children in the inner cities. The emphasis is on health, education and service programs. It was started with 67 athletes who contribute a predetermined amount based on selected categories for their game performance. The Foundation then triples the athletes' donations."
While Brooks is scrupulous about not publicizing his charity work, Downey thought that asking his fans to help -- with even small contributions -- would be a fine way to let him know his fans appreciate him, are happy he's performing again and admire what he's doing.
She's met Garth Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood [flanking her in the photo above] several times, she says. "The first time I met him I told him exactly why I was so very proud to be a fan and he was visibly shaken by what I said and hugged me. Even before I met him, I knew that this man is truly amazing. He's not afraid to admit he's made mistakes, he admits that he's not perfect and he's staying true to his promise to be a good parent to his daughters and a committed husband to Trisha. He's really very humble, down-to-earth and honest. When he's performing I love to watch his face as tears well in his eyes, almost as if he can't believe this is happening to him. I've seen it often when and it touches my heart each and every time."
Deciding to reach out to fans, Downey put a link to Teammates for Kids on her business website and then began to contact country music radio stations and newspapers. Although the charity hasn't told her how much money has been raised through her efforts, she's heard from several fans that they contributed.
Between now and 2014, Joanne Downey says she'll see Brooks "at least once" each year he's here. And, when he begins touring again, she'll continue to see him. Meanwhile, she's vowed to do her best to help Teammates for Kids because, in the end, she says, "I'm thrilled Garth Brooks is doing this but, even if it weren't he who is, it's so very important to get it done."