Category Archives: Community Caring

Unique Christmas Sweepstakes blesses winner and local Branson charity

161212 Christmas Sweepstakes Composite

Two “Winners,” Onyinye Elochukwu,” who won the $500 Grand Prize and the American Red Cross of Southern Missouri, who was designated by her to receive an additional $500 from the Branson Tourism Center.

When Mrs. Onyinye Elochukwu, of Sacramento, California, went to open her email on the morning of December 12, she certainly didn’t expect to find out that she had won Branson Tourism Center’s 2016 Ozark Mountain Christmas Sweepstakes. She said, “When I opened my email and found out that I had won I was so excited! I read it twice before I even grasped that I had won.”

Onyinye, a stay at home mom taking care of a two-and-a-half-year-old son, entered the contest through Facebook and really didn’t think she had a chance to win. Now that she’s won, she said, “I’m so grateful. It couldn’t have come at a better time; what a wonderful Christmas gift!”

“To us at the Branson Tourism Center, Christmas is all about giving, so in keeping with that spirit, we decided to have a special Christmas Sweepstake centered around the joy and spirit of Christmas giving,” said Tammy Johnson, the Vice President | General Manager of the Branson Tourism Center. “We offer our congratulations to Mrs. Elochukwu and share her excitement.”

Johnson also points out that another important element of the Sweepstake was that the Winner was empowered to brighten the Christmas of a local Branson charity by designating it, from those listed, to receive a gift of $500.00 from the Branson Tourism Center. Onyinye, who has never visited Branson, but hopes to do so someday, selected the American Red Cross of Southern Missouri because she is more familiar with the Red Cross saying,” I see what they do on TV, on-line, and in social media and I like what they do to help people in times of need.”

Stacy Burks, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Southern Missouri said, “We’re so grateful to Mrs. Elochukwu and the Branson Tourism Center for thinking of the American Red Cross during this season of giving. Our volunteers are ready to go when disaster strikes whether home fire, flood, or tornado and this donation will help provide relief and help to community members during their time of need.”


A special birthday gift for Jesus

Some of the kids and their escorts just prior to embarking on their "Candy Cane Cruise."

BRANSON, Mo., December 8, 2013 – About 50 children and their escourts from “Jesus Was Homeless” enjoyed an exclusive private “Candy Cane Cruise” aboard the luxurious 100 foot luxury yacht “Landing Princess” on Dec.7. While cruising they enjoyed meeting with Mrs. Claus and her elves as she read them a story, singing carols, having cookies and milk, writing a letter to Santa Claus and other activities. Ashley Lauer, the Community Relations Manager for “Jesus Was Homeless” said that the children were so excited and have been looking forward to the cruise for weeks.

But the cruise was just the beginning. When it was over the children were surprised when they were taken to a party room with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree surrounded by a huge pile of wrapped Christmas gifts, each with a name on it. After enjoying a Christmas lunch and a craft time, each child received the Christmas gift with their name on it. Prior to Thanksgiving each child was asked what they wanted for Christmas and the gift with their name on it, as much as practicable, contained that gift. In addition, each child got to pick a scarf, hand knitted by two people specifically for the occasion, for their mother that was gift wrapped for them on the spot.

Christmas tree with each child's "wish list " gift wrapped and waiting,

I could not write this story without sharing two of the many stories about these precious children that that touched my heart. Our cinematographer was approached by one of the smaller children and asked, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” He replied, “Of course I do, don’t you?” “Well I guess so, but he doesn’t stop by our house too often.” As each child, by name ,got their gift one little girl was heard to say, “Oh please, let there be one for me.” Of course there was thanks to the combined efforts of the employees and owners of the Branson Tourism Center, Main Street Lake Cruises and “Jesus Was Homeless,” who had been working for months to make this a very special Christmas moment for the children.

“Jesus Was Homeless” is a local not for profit ministry started in 2008 with the mission of “serving those who are hungry, homeless and hurting within our community by sharing hope love and compassion…” Lauer said that what she loves most about her job, “Is Serving people.” She points out that its mission is completely different from the wonderful food pantry programs whose primary mission is giving out food to the hungry. We are in the business of building relationships by sharing hope, love, and compassion with people who are hungry, hurting and homeless with the goal of helping them break the cycle of poverty that they find themselves in.

That is accomplished through a variety of programs designed to develop relationships, dignity, value and caring while, as much as possible, not duplicating services provided by other organizations and fostering the building of community. These include serving a hot meal every Tuesday, the delivering of about 850 meals to local motels where the “homeless” are housed each Thursday and providing a hot Sunday breakfast before its “no perfect people are allowed” Gateway Church service for people who don’t “like” church.

The “Jesus Was Homeless” program goes far beyond food however as it attempts to build community and help break the cycle of poverty impacting on its clients lives. Its unique biweekly eight week program, called “Jobs For Life” helps equip students with the necessary skills to apply for and successfully hold a job. A unique aspect of this program is that its graduates are guaranteed a job interview with some of Branson’s biggest employers. In addition, there are workshops and service projects designed to help build relationships, dignity, value and caring by providing it clients an opportunity to give back to their community.

Lauer said, “We are honored to serve our community and are so thankful for the volunteers and financial contributors that makes our ministry possible.” Anyone wanting to volunteer or make a contribution to “Jesus Was Homeless” should contact them either by calling them 417-335-9915 or through their website


5th Annual CAM Branson Gospel Sing Off

Guest performer Jimmy Fortune

BRANSON, Mo., August 20, 2013 — The spectacular Sight & Sound Theatre, the home of the spectacular production of Joseph and the Miracle of Christmas will host the 5th Annual Christian Action Ministries (CAM) “Gospel Sing Off” on Sunday September 1st starting at 2 PM.  Jack Burke, CAM Board Chairman said that the ten finalists were chosen from over 80 entrants and will be competing for over $3,000 in cash, trophies and the opportunity to sing at Silver Dollar City during the last day of its “Southern Gospel Music Picnic,” September 2.

The finalists will be judged by a panel of six local celebrity judges. They are Avery Cole, from “The Voices of Glory,” and AYO Show; Ben Dutton, singer, dancer, and versatile musician with The Duttons; George Dyer, Branson’s premier tenor from The George Dyer Show; Jak Knudsen of the popular Branson entertainment group SIX; Joe Sullivan, who has been producing Branson shows and bringing national talent to Branson stages for over 20 years and Ronnie Page, entertainment editor for the Branson Daily Independent and singing with The Statler Brothers Revisited.

The ten finalist acts performing in the Gospel Sing Off are:

The Farnums, a family of eight from Galena, Missouri.  Mom and Dad, plus their six children ranging in age from 7 to 20, focus on preserving historical and traditional gospel music.

DC-3 Trio (Daughters of Christ) is based in the greater Chicago area and has been singing together at church and community events for 17 years.

Mark Dean is an award-winning gospel singer and Branson resident who has dedicated his talents to praising the Lord after a near-death heart incident seven years ago.

Joy2 is an a cappella quartet from Harrison, Arkansas.  The four members were all involved in choral music prior to coming together in 2011 as a group.

Joanne Hall, a Forsyth resident who was born in Thibodaux, Louisianna, started singing at age 5, but has spent the last 25 years raising her family.  She was originally known as the little girl with the big voice.

Changed is a family group from Lebanon, Missouri who have expanded their singing together around the piano to become more organized as a gospel-singing group.

The Haining Family of Branson began performing Christian family-building music in 2004 with a unique blend of vocal harmonies, instrumental skills, and yodeling.

Jericho, based in the DeSoto area of Missouri, is a quartet of working men who fill their spare time by musically sharing their love of the Lord with others.

Ashley Jischke is a talented, young woman from Kimberling City who loves to sing, play the piano and guitar, and write her own songs and music.

The Gospel Cousins are two sisters and their cousin who have been active in the music ministry, Sunday school, and choir at their Quinton, Oklahoma church for the past three decades.”

For the 5th consecutive year, Bob Hubbard of the “Foggy River Boys” and “The Jordanaires,” will emcee the Sing Off. Guest appearances will also be made by Jimmy Fortune of The Statler Brothers, “Voices of Glory,” who finished in the Top Five of the NBC prime time hit show “Americas Got Talent,” and are staring in their Branson Show Ayo; last year’s winners The Fair Family, and saxophonist Gary Dooms.  Ventriloquist Kerry Miller and his gospel-singing puppets will be providing pre-show entertainment in the Sight & Sound lobby.

The Gospel Sing-Off is the “only operational fundraiser” for Christian Action Ministries (CAM), who “operates food pantries in Branson and Forsyth, as well as a monthly mobile outreach to eastern Taney County. Reserved seat tickets are a $12 donation for adults and $6 for children 12 and under. For further information or tickets please feel free to contact either the Sight and Sound Theatre or the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550.


Track Family Fun Parks Gift of Hope Benefit this Saturday

Gift of Hope benefit.

BRANSON, Mo (04/25/12) The Track Family Fun Park #3, located at 2505 W. Hwy 76, Branson, directly across Highway 76 from the Andy Williams Moon River Grill, will host a benefit  for the Gift of Hope and its Backpack Club and Christmas Share programs on Saturday, April 28, 2012 between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Those attending will enjoy reduced rates with “$5.00 per 1 pass ride including Classic go-karts, bumper boats and mini golf.

The Gift of Hope’s mission is “Providing essentials and pathways to independence for Taney County Families.” One of the ways it does that is through “The Backpack Club” which provides a backpack of nutritious food for children who have shown signs of hunger outside of the school meal program.  Children receive the food each weekend during the school year. The Christmas Share program will provide customized assistance to approximately 30 families in need during the winter months.

“Branson visitors as well as locals can have a great afternoon of fun, save money and help a great cause,” said Stephanie Milton, Director of Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. For information on the Benefit or the Gift of Hope please call 417-546-8062.For information on the Benefit or the Gift of Hope please call 417-546-8062.

Silver Dollar City’s “White Glove” preview of “An Old Time Christmas”

BRANSON, Mo. In a one-night-only special event, Silver Dollar City is offering an opportunity for guests to participate in the final walk-through of the top features of its world-famous An Old Time Christmas festival before it opens to the public. The proceeds of the event will benefit “Care For Kids,” a project of the Silver Dollar City Foundation and Hometown Radio. Care For Kids provides funds to area school districts to meet the individual needs of area kids.

The White Glove, a preview event on the eve of An Old Time Christmas, takes place at the park Friday, November 4, beginning at 5:30 p.m. It includes a holiday feast with prime rib and all the fixings, the first lighting of the 5-story Christmas Tree, caroling, the first run of the Holiday Light Parade, and final dress rehearsals of the park’s highly acclaimed production “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol” and the Living Nativity.

The walk-through review, known at the park for decades as the “White Glove,” is when all shows, décor, food and lights are tested and approved before the park opens to the public. It is limited to 400 tickets, with a special price of $40 per person. For additional information call 800-831-4386.

Craft festivals, grape stomp, faeries, wood carving and chili cook-off “Fall” in Branson

One of the many crafts that will be demonstrated at the National Harvest Festival.

Silver Dollar City’s National Harvest Festival is not only one of the largest craft festivals in the nation it is the precursor of many Fall festivals and events in the Branson area that run during the same time period. The National Harvest Festival has been formally recognized by the U.S. Congress, features over 100 demonstrating craftsmen and artisans from all over the country, runs until October 29 and like all of the six world class festivals that Silver Dollar City offers its guests each year is in addition to all the fun, rides and excitement available at the international award winning 1880s theme park on a daily basis.

The merchants and businesses of historic downtown Branson will hold their 38th Annual Autumn Daze Arts and Crafts Festival in Branson’s historic district on Friday and Saturday, September 16 and 17 from 9 AM to 6 PM. Over 150 crafters from all over the country will display, their work in this “juried craft show” which is free to the public and, when combined with the unqiue specialty and art shops in downtown Branson, provides one of the most unique shopping opportunities available anywhere. In addition the festival includes demonstrations from many of the visiting craftsmen, food vendors, a children’s area, free live music from Branson entertainers throughout the day and a street dance in historic down town Branson on Saturday, September 17 at 6:30 PM with the music provided by “Tony Turner and the All Stars.”

On Saturday, September 24, the city of Hollister will hold its 13th annual “Grape & Fall Festival” on “Downing Street”  in historic downtown Hollister. This one day celebration is “simply old fashioned family fun” for the whole family and will feature displays and products by local artists and vendors, live music and entertainment by Branson entertainers, kids activities, “carnival food like funnel cakes and turkey legs” and much more. One of the major highlights of the festival is the “Grape Stomp” competition at 2 PM where local dignitaries and personalities “get up to their knees in grapes” and compete for the coveted “Ugly Monkey Trophy.” It’s a unique day of great fun.

The 2nd Annual “Rose O’Neill’s Faerie Gathering” will take place on September 24 and 25 at “Bonniebrook,” the “favorite place” of Rose O’Neill, the inventor of the “Kewpie Doll” and “Kewpies.” In addition to the museum, containing one of the most complete collections of O’Neil’s “Kewpies” and other works available anywhere, the festival will celebrate her belief in “Faeries” with crafts, a fairy house building competition, seminars and other activities including “The Sweet Monsters Ball and Masquerade” starting at 6 PM on Saturday, September 24.

From Friday, October 7 through the Sunday, October 9, in conjunction with “LogHoggers,” the Branson Titanic Museum Attraction will hold its 4th Annual Chainsaw Sculpting Event to honor Titanic’s German passengers and crew. The three day competition will take place from 9 AM to 5 PM on Friday and Saturday and from 9 AM to 3 PM on Sunday. It also includes an auction where the carvings will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The Titanic will also hold its 2nd Annual “red-hot Titanic Firehouse & Charity Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, October 15, from 10 AM. to 4 PM in the same parking area. The first year of the event proved to be one of “the most highly attended family events in Titanic’s five-year history.” Come early, watch them prep, meet local firefighters, personnel from various charities, sample their delicious chili and then stick around to see if your favorite wins the competition.

For additional information on any of these events or any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. BTC can be reached by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Branson’s heart provides seniors with the trip they thought was lost

BRANSON, Mo. It was a newspaper article about the victimization of some senior citizens that happened in 2008, hundreds of miles away from Branson and that most in Branson, not only had nothing to do with, but had no idea it had even happened. However, as is the case with many of life’s good works, it touched the hearts of people who cared and, as a result, a group of senior citizens, called the “Funseekers,” will travel those hundreds of miles to Branson and enjoy three days of fun they thought had been stolen from them forever.

At first blush, there’s nothing in the February 23, 2011 Connecticut Post article, entitled, “Travel agent headed to jail for defrauding seniors” for anyone in Branson to be concerned about, but as Larry Milton, co-owner of the Branson Tourism Center with his wife Lianne, read the article about this specific group, his heart was touched. He discovered that the seniors who had been victimized had paid over $40,000 to a man for a three night trip to Branson that they never got to take because he took their money but never fulfilled the trip. Although the thief was convicted and is awaiting sentencing, Milton just didn’t think it was right that the Funseekers never got the Branson trip for which they had paid.

On February 24, not a day after becoming aware of the situation, the Milton’s contacted the reporter to get more information on the group and began working with others in the Branson community to help put together the same itinerary that had originally been sold to the Funseekers group back in 2008.  Milton said that he and others in the community wanted “the Funseekers to see firsthand in this day and age that Branson is different for all the right reasons.”

He continued by pointing out that it would also be an opportunity “to emphasize to other groups the importance of trusting an established tour provider.” He explained that whether it is someone who is a member of ABA, NTA, OMCA, BARA, or ASTA there are reputable companies that Branson’s future customers should be encouraged to “use to protect themselves and ultimately our community.”

With that simple start, and thanks to the hearts of many within the Branson tourism community, about 54 members of the “Funseekers,” will fly into St. Louis on September 12 to enjoy the same basic three day Branson itinerary they paid for in 2008 and thought they had lost. The response of those offering to help from within the Branson tourism community was overwhelming. As far as practicable, everything on their original itinerary, from airfare, to bus service, lodging, shows and most meals is being provided courtesy of the following which are listed in alphabetical order Andy Williams Moon River Grill, Branson Coach, Branson Tourism Center, the Brett Family Show, Jim Stafford Show, McFarlain’s Restaurant, Shoji Tabuchi Show, the Showboat Branson Belle Dinner Show, the Stone Castle Hotel, the Twelve Irish Tenors and the Yakov Smirnoff Show.

In explaining one of the major things that makes Branson the special place it is, Milton said, “It is and will forever be different because of the hearts of its people.” It is those hearts that are providing the Funseekers with the wonderful Branson experience that they thought was lost forever.