A warm-hearted country singer and song writer is on her way to take the chill out of a western Minnesota winter.
Michelle Murray, a Nashville, Tenn.- based recording artist, will be performing at venues ranging from Franny's in Starbuck tonight to the Prairie's Edge Casino near Granite Falls on Sunday.
The tour will serve as a fundraiser for Elizabeth Giese, a 35-year-old Benson woman with large medical bills from a severe kidney disease.
It's also an opportunity for Murray to promote her new single "Love Me Like You Love Your Truck,'' offer a sneak preview of her new movie "Long Road to Fame," and to shoot video for her TV reality show about life on the road with three young children, husband, nanny and band in tow.
Country music fans know Murray for singles such as "With You,'' "Do Ya,'' and "It's OK to Cry.'' Just about everyone else knows her voice from television jingles she performed as a 13-year-old for companies including McDonald's and Hallmark.
She's performed on stage with the likes of country stars Craig Morgan and Montgomery Gentry, but she's probably as well known for company like Sam Schmidt and Gary Van Vorst. Schmidt was an Indy race car driver left paralyzed by an accident in 2001. Murray has been the voice of his foundation seeking to find a cure for paralysis through research, treatment and rehabilitation.
Van Vorst is also a cause for her heart. Van Vorst, 60, lost his vision as the result of surgery for the severe arthritis that has challenged him since childhood. Van Vorst is embarking on a walk from Los Angeles, Calif., to New York City to raise awareness for children with special needs.
Van Vorst's walk begins Jan. 15, and Murray and company plan to be with him for what he is calling the WE Tour from start to finish. That gave Murray only a few days-window for a January trip to Minnesota, explained her husband, Tom Murray, in a recent telephone interview.
As to what would motivate a trip to western Minnesota in the biting chill of winter, well that too is a story of the heart.
And, it's about a surprising connection. Amy Jobgen of Benson is working with Larry Reiche, CEO and president of an internet magazine known as Sports Life, to produce a print version of it for national distribution at newsstands and large retailers.
Jogben has turned over the printing responsibilities to Monitor Printing in Benson, which makes the Swift County community home for the glossy magazine. The magazine recently published an article on Van Vorst's upcoming We Tour, and has an upcoming article in the works on Michelle Murray, who is also a sponsor.
All of which put Jobgen and Murray on the phone one day in late-December. The friendly conversation turned to Jogben's plans to hold a spaghetti feed in April on behalf of her niece, Elizabeth Giese.
That's when Murray offered to squeeze in a tour to Minnesota to help out, said Jobgen. She jumped at the chance faster than a swimmer exiting the water after a New Year's Day polar plunge.
It meant she had only days to arrange the tour. She had to make her contacts when many of those she sought were in the midst of holiday activities.
"It was challenging,'' said Jobgen.
There's one more big challenge ahead: "I'm terrified,'' said Giese of the idea of sharing the stage with a Nashville recording artist.
But Giese said she also can't wait for the chance to meet Murray and to thank her. "To know that people are willing to do this for other people, it's just over-whelming,'' said Giese.
A percentage of all proceeds will be donated to Elizabeth Fiese Benefit.