More than 100 friends and family of Fred Forster gathered at the Tennessee Theater for a backstage tour and private concert all to benefit Relay for Life on Friday evening, May 14.
The event, hosted by Dr. Bill Snyder and Tish Hickman, culminated in a marriage proposal, some rousing military and show tunes and a verse of “Jesus Loves Me.” The event was a double-fundraiser for cancer research.
Originally, Hickman bought the private tour and concert at another Relay for Life event -- the auction part of Celebrity Waiters. Rather than use the facility for a party, Hickman created a committee with Rick Shepard, Joe Tipton and Joy Carver to plan a Relay fundraiser that would double as a tribute to Fred Forster.
“I was struggling with what to do with this is a fun thing,” said Hickman. “We were brainstorming, and I talked to Rick Shepard and Joe Tipton and Joy Carver and Carolyn about doing this,” Hickman said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s perfect and Fred was the perfect person to honor. We wanted to do all we could to raise money for the cause in his honor.”
Tipton said Forster has been a mentor and friend for years. “I know Relay for Life is something that is very, very important to him, so if it’s important to him, it’s important to me,” Tipton said.
Forster, who is retiring as CEO and president of the Blount Chamber Partnership in June, was the guest of honor. Already a cancer survivor, Forster recently learned cancer had returned, and he is facing another round of treatments soon.
His wife, Carolyn, said more than $4,000 was raised that night, which will be part of the donation from the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church Relay for Life team.
“For that many people to come from Maryville, it was such a special time for us. Dr. Snyder is so personable. It was very informal. Dr. Snyder took people on a personal tour and then did this concert tribute to Fred,” Carolyn Forster said. “He started with military music, did Broadway tunes and finished with the ‘Tennessee Waltz.’ Our grandson, Drew Carver, was there and said his favorite song was ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ so Dr. Snyder started playing it and everyone sang along.”
The night also had a touch of romance to it. “We even had couple get engaged. This was actually the granddaughter of one of our church friends,” said Carolyn. “The boyfriend (Benjamin Settlemyer) had asked permission to do this and, while everyone was on tour backstage behind the curtain, he took her (Keisha Kirkpatrick) and proposed right on stage. It was a true celebration.”
Mt. Lebanon Baptist Relay for Life co-coordinator Linda Smith said the night was a wonderful tribute to Forster as well as a fundraiser. The guests were given an opportunity donate to Relay for Life during the event. “Fred is a great person and great representative of Blount County,” she said. “It lasted a couple hours and was very inspirational.”