Stars urge support in CMT disaster benefit

Help is on the way.

Help is on the way.

That's the message celebrities and music stars sent to storm victims across the South on Thursday night during a star-studded benefit concert on CMT.

Hank Williams Jr. kicked off "Music Builds: The CMT Disaster Relief Concert" at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville with a rendition of "I Saw the Light", sung with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Little Big Town gave a haunting performance of the Coldplay song "Fix You", and Lady Antebellum performed a funky medley that included Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and their own hit, "I Run To You".

President Barack Obama appeared in a video message from a manufacturing plant in Indiana to praise volunteers, first responders and local, state and federal officials for their heroic efforts after the deadly tornadoes and continued flooding along the Mississippi River. He encouraged Americans to donate to the Red Cross, calling the U.S. "a nation of people who look out for each other."

Nicole Kidman, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Courtney Cox, Taylor Swift and other big-name celebrities also appeared in video messages, urging donations and telling stories of destruction and survival. "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and host Ryan Seacrest sent in well wishes from the "American Idol" set.

More than 300 people were killed across seven states two weeks ago, more than 200 in Alabama alone, when a record number of tornadoes ripped through the region. The storm system left many communities across the South in ruin.

Randy Owen, lead singer of the legendary country group Alabama, spoke emotionally about the 34 people who died from the band's hometown of DeKalb County.

"These were people that we knew and friends of ours," he said, before dedicating the song "My Home's In Alabama" to everyone back home and in the surrounding areas.

The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to the disasters that have occurred in the past couple weeks. Additionally, hundreds of Red Cross workers are providing food and shelter to people along the Mississippi River in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi whose homes have flooded. They are preparing to expand relief operations further south as the high waters flow downriver.

The organization has opened over 170 shelters and provided more than 14,000 overnight stays to people in need since March 31.

Other performers at the CMT benefit included Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Ronnie Dunn, Gretchen Wilson, Sara Evans, Alan Jackson and Trace Adkins.

Kellie Pickler, model Niki Taylor, Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, Montgomery Gentry and Clint Black were among the stars who took donations through a phone bank.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Victims can also apply for federal aid at DisasterAssistance.gov.

CMT will announce the total raised at the CMT Music Awards June 8.

__

Online:

http://www.redcross.org

http://www.cmt.com

http://www.disasterassistance.gov

Join the conversation: http://www.twitter.com/AP_Country

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