Ty Herndon's staged five of his annual Concert for Love & Acceptance events since 2015. His sixth show, however, required some retooling.

Faced with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Herndon and his team needed to reimagine the event to work with social distancing recommendations and fans' and performers' safety in mind. As awards ceremonies, television specials and other events have done in recent months, they're piecing the show together from a series of performances filmed remotely. While Herndon admits that he's disappointed to not be able to have everyone together for the big night, he's thrilled at the response he's gotten from the performers.

"We're asking performers to to do high-def performances from their homes ... and most everybody that's turned into performances have been, like, wow," Herndon recently told The Boot during a phone call. "We got Rita Wilson's yesterday, and, you know her, it's just so beautifully done. And I think because of what it is ... people are taking really taking their time."

Fans, too, have already stepped up, donating to the cause -- Herndon's newly established Foundation for Love & Acceptance -- early. As of press time, they've raised just over $24,000, of a stated $100,000 goal for the event.

"The fans have just blessed me ... and they've just been incredible," Herndon raves. "I've had a lot of tears; I've been really humbled."

Herndon is quick to admit, however, that at the start of the pandemic, his outlook wasn't so upbeat. The Nashville resident saw parts of his beloved city get destroyed by an early March tornado -- many of those affected are still cleaning up the damage, in fact -- and then, a few weeks later, his plans for the year started grinding to a halt.

"It was like I was watching somebody take all of that work and put it in the toilet," Herndon remembers. "And they were standing there and they flushed it, and I was, no matter what I did, I wasn't able to stop it.

"I took it very personally in the beginning," Herndon confesses, "not stopping to think that I wasn't the only one standing and watching the toilet flush." Devastated by the losses, Herndon says he "became a real victim."

"I found myself so broken that I actually was just kind of sitting in the corner crying ... I didn't even recognize myself," he recounts.

It was an early morning FaceTime call from Herndon's "good old Southern mother" that snapped him out of it: She told her son to get a cup of coffee and let her talk.

"She goes, 'Son, I'll tell you when to talk. I need you to be quiet right now.' And my mom rarely has told me that, so I shut up," Herndon remembers. She reminded him that he still had a platform he could use for good, so he needed to "get [his] ass up and get busy."

"She basically hung up on me after that," he adds. "I knew that the next phone call wouldn't be pretty."

A therapist helped Herndon adjust his mindset to view what he was seeing as a "great loss" as "an opportunity for great gain."

"There was an opportunity to get up and really help my community," Herndon reflects, by finally launching his Foundation for Love & Acceptance. The organization, like other artists' charities, will raise money and distribute it to a variety of causes focused on the LGBTQ+ community and other vulnerable populations.

 

 

 

 

 

Herndon's 2020 Concert for Love & Acceptance is set for 7PM ET on Tuesday (June 30), to be preceded by a red carpet countdown at 5:30PM ET, and will stream live via CMT's Facebook and YouTube channels. It's being hosted by by Herndon, CMT's Cody Alan and Kristin Chenoweth, the latter of whom was the one to suggest the virtual format to Herndon.

 

"It's giving the performers, actually, an opportunity to be very creative," Herndon notes. Lauren Alaina, Billy Gilman, Mickey Guyton, Jake Owen, Kalie Shorr, Brandon Stansell, Tanya Tucker, Chely Wright, Brett Young and more have turned in performances for the night.

The Concert for Love & Acceptance is presented by Herndon's Foundation for Love & Acceptance and benefits ACM Lifting Lives and GLAAD. More information is available at F4LA.org.

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