Working hard over the weekend when most of us are ready to relax is common for the stars of the Texas country scene. That's when big-time acts like Burleson's Casey Donahew Band, the Josh Abbott Band, Bart Crow and the Randy Rogers Band make their money and win their fans.
Over this past weekend, however, these artists and many more from the Texas country landscape added a vital task onto their already full agendas: to #ClearTheList.
On the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 2, Lori Wrobleski, a third-grade teacher from Joshua, located just south of Donahew's hometown of Burleson, included the singer in a tweet, saying, "You can help my students who come hungry, abused and neglected. I get to be the best part of their day #clearthelist #texasteacher."
The teacher also tagged Texas celebrities including Kelly Clarkson, Jamie Foxx, and Gov. Greg Abbott, as well as Ivanka Trump and pop star Ariana Grande. The tweet included a link to an Amazon "wish list," featuring a range of items needed to equip her classroom.
The following day, Donahew replied to the teacher's tweet telling her that, along with the help of the Randy Rogers Band, her wish list had been cleared. That was the first of a flurry of tweets he would send informing over 20 teachers the items from their respective Amazon lists had been purchased. He also sent tweets out to fellow musicians and sports personalities imploring them to join in the cause.
The Texas Tribune reported in May that "Public school teachers across Texas have long been frustrated with stagnant pay year to year." And that according to the National Education Association, Texas public school teachers are paid "more than $7,000 lower than the nationwide average."
This grassroots effort is rooted, at least in part, by Donahew's own personal history and understanding of what obstacles a teacher faces in order to be prepared for a new school year. According to Casey's wife, Melinda Donahew, who oversees their record label Almost Country Entertainment, her husband actually taught algebra at Azle High School for a year after graduating college. She's been amazed by the events of the past few days.
"We honestly had no idea what we were getting involved with as we just started purchasing some of the requests Casey had received via Twitter," she says. "And after doing just a few, it was like someone called the teacher union! It's been overwhelming to say the least."
The Donahews set up a GoFundMe page, at gofundme.com/f/
"At the moment, we have received over 12,000 lists from teachers just trying to get necessary supplies," she says. "Simple things like crayons, writing tablets and paint. It seems like we accidentally stumbled on a major problem not just in our state but nationwide. So many other artists and celebrities have also been clearing lists, so I feel like this is a major movement being driven by a lot of caring people."
For his part, Josh Abbott, while on vacation with his family, was inspired by Donahew's initiative and joined in, clearing several teacher wish lists and reaching out to others to do the same. He says he "never envisioned the magnitude of this issue, nor the willingness of others to help." He's now hoping this effort makes enough noise to have a larger impact moving forward.
"Hopefully state officials will see this very apparent issue and help resolve it next session," he says.
Melinda Donahew says this isn't the beginning of some seasonal, temporary fix. Like Josh Abbott, she's excited about what the #ClearTheList campaign can mean for the future.
"We have been able to buy supplies for 125 teachers. It's a miracle!," she says. "And we are still clearing lists and still shopping, and will be doing this for as long as the money keeps coming in."