By People Staff
December 16, 2009 12:00 PM

“Once you understand it’s so important to them, it’s not just a show”

Toby Keith

USO Tours

“My father always taught us to respect veterans,” says Keith, whose dad lost an eye serving in the Army. Mission accomplished. Keith, 48, has been on seven consecutive U.S.O. tours and just won the Military Officers Association of America’s Distinguished Service Award. “My dad and I used to talk about seeing places Americans fought, like Germany and France,” says the singer. “He passed away before we did, so I feel he’s with me when I do this.” As is the satisfaction Keith gets from heeding this call. “It’s as much for me as it is for them,” he says. “It’s a history and geography lesson, and it’s an honor.”


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Emmylou Harris

Bonaparte’s Retreat

Inspired after the death of her beloved rescue dog, Harris started a dog rescue in her own backyard in 2004. “I wanted to help other dogs in Bonaparte’s memory,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’ve got a big yard; I could build dog runs.’ ” Five years later she’s found homes for over 70 dogs. And her doggy bunkhouse comes with an eating station, a sofa and…satellite radio? (Usually tuned to Willie Nelson’s XM honky-tonk station.) Says Harris, who walks, feeds and puts the dogs to bed: “We make sure their time here is the best it can be before finding them a home.”


Spay or neuter your pets to control the pet population. Visit for more info.

Big Kenny

The Kunyuk School for Girls

“Success brought with it this new awareness,” says Kenny. “People were showing me things that turned my stomach, thinking I could do something. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try.” The singer joined the effort to build the Kunyuk School for Girls in Sudan. Says Kenny: “Maybe if we exchange books, it will stop us from exchanging bullets.”


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Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Inspired by her father, who “couldn’t write his own name,” Parton began her program in 1996 in her hometown in Sevier County, Tenn. Today the effort sends a book a month to 535,000 children in more than 1,100 communities in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. “My dream has been for every child to have a library of books their parents could read to them from,” she’s said. “The Imagination Library will be one of those things I’ll be the proudest of.”


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“Kids don’t quit getting sick because of the economy”

Randy Owen

Country Cares for St. Jude Kids

In 1989 Alabama star Randy Owen was asked to fill in for St. Jude founder Danny Thomas as keynote speaker at the Country Radio Seminar. “I talked about how we could get a nationwide effort from country radio to help [sick] kids,” says Owen. “But I never dreamed that day would change my life.” The result: Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, Owen’s national radiothon program, which has raised more than $365 million for cancer research. Says Owen: “To be able to inspire people to help is good for the soul.”


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