Dedicated dad Rory Feek is sharing the beautiful story behind the elaborate gesture he crafted for his daughter.
In an essay for Today published on Monday, the country star, 53, discussed what he did with the $100,000 sent to him by fans following the death of his wife Joey in March 2016 due to cancer. The father of three shared that he built a schoolhouse on his Tennessee farm to accommodate the educational needs of his youngest daughter, Indiana, 4, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome the day she was born.
“Joey’s plan had always been to home-school Indy. To raise and teach her at home. Not just how to read and write, but more importantly, to be part of molding her character and faith and help her become all that she can be… But now, it was clear that we would have to come up with a different plan,” Feek wrote.
“In the coming weeks I would enroll Indiana in High Hopes, a wonderful integrated pre-school a half-hour or so from our farm and she would thrive there for the next two years,” the Grammy winner recalled to the morning show. “Learning to walk, though later than other kiddos her age, and also to talk incredibly well, in spite of the challenges she had. And then knowing that she would soon age out of High Hopes, an idea began to emerge to have the best of both worlds: Indy having the chance to be part of an amazing school, and being at home, at the same time.”
So Feek started Hardison Mill School on their family’s farm in Columbia, “a stone’s throw away” from where his wife is buried. Its first day in session on Monday was made possible thanks to the “$5 bills. And 10s and 20s, and change and checks of all sizes” the Feeks received. “When we spread their outpouring of love all across the kitchen table, it added up to nearly $100,000. It was beyond humbling,” the musician said.
The cost of the one-room building, which was brought to life by a community barn-raising, was almost the exact same amount as what he received, Feek explained. The structure looks about 150 years old, so he named it after the schoolhouse that served the town that long ago.
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“Today was a special day for our family, a day when something beyond heartbreaking became something beyond beautiful,” he concluded. “I stayed for a long time this morning and watched Indiana play with her new friends on their first day of school. And as I watched, I thought of how blessed we are, and how wonderful it is to be part of using our blessing to bless others.”
Although the loss of his wife was incredibly painful, Feek speaks of her often. He said in an interview in June with CBS Sunday Morning that his feelings about Joey haven’t changed.
“I feel just as married and just as in love,” he said. “I feel like she’s just as much a part of our life as she was.”
The couple had Indy together in 2014, and Feel has two daughters from a previous marriage: Heidi, 31, and Hopie, 30.