When Jill Conner Browne called Randall Wallace earlier today, he didn’t know it would cost him. The Braveheart screenwriter and friend of Browne has been a fan of hers and, now, Zippity Doo Dah®, for some time. So when this year’s total came in at $95,553 – a record total, no less – Browne wouldn’t let it stand. She left Wallace a voicemail this morning explaining what could have been. And she decided it should be. “Hey, Honey,” she said by phone from the lobby of Blair E. Batson Hospital For Children. “You just put us at $100,000.” It was news to him, but he didn’t mind. “He laughed and laughed,” Browne said after the call. “It tickled him silly to know he helped us reach a new height.”
Indeed the bird has flown higher than ever before as Fondren’s Zippity Doo Dah® weekend has raised $100,000 for Friends of Children’s Hospital and Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Fondren. The amount represents the largest ever donation in the three year history of the weekend.
Jim Wilkirson, Fondren Renaissance Executive Director listed a host of sponsors and said they truly made this a special weekend. Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson welcomed the crowd and thanked Fondren for “bringing a lot of pizazz and life to our city.” Browne cited Jeff Good in her remarks. “Three years ago, he got it immediately about rolling this weekend into his carnival and sold it to Fondren.” She went on to thank the people of Fondren for “opening their minds, hearts, doors and streets to this whole weekend.”
Weekend presenter Fondren Renaissance was at the forefront of Browne’s thanks for their non-typical role. “Y’all may not be aware but Fondren Renaissance is itself a non-profit organization,” she said. “It’s an very unusual situation for one nonprofit to be putting time, efforts energy and resources into raising money for another non-profit organization. So I have to thank Jim Wilkirson. He has taken Zippity Doo Dah® to and beyond all limits with his creativity, vision, and, apparently, boundless energy. We are profoundly grateful.”
A great deal of this year’s proceeds will be used to build an outdoor area for children. The Seth Harris Foundation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has spearheaded that project. Browne recounted a story from Harris’ aunt who said one of the problems Seth struggled with was, when he did have a good day, there was no place for children to be outside. “They worked with Batson to find a spot of earth outside the hospital to build a playground,” she said. Browne’s Wingfield Class of ’70 ‘Classymates,’ lead by Boss Queen Lynn Lee, took on the cause and themselves raised $40,000 to add to the grand total.
Browne says the word has gotten out that Fondren is the place to live and work, but, as importantly, the place to play. “My nail girl, Sue, is in Harrisville, which, as you know, is a long way down Highway 49. And when Sue from Harrisville says ‘You know, Fondren has really gotten to be the place to be,’ the message is out, she chuckled. “Success.”