When Missy Schwendiman, RRT, bought a ticket for the Nashville Experience and Songwriting Package raffle sponsored by the AARC and country and western star Billy Dawson last fall, she really just did it to support a good cause: namely, the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF).
So when a coworker asked her if she’d heard anything yet about who won, her answer was pretty simple. “No,” she said. “I never win anything, so I’m sure I didn’t.
Make that “never won anything before,” because when the grand prize winner was drawn at the AARC Executive Office, Missy came out on top! “I was shocked and excited,” says the AARC member.
The big trip took place at the end of last month, and Missy says it truly was an “experience” she’ll never forget.
“I don’t write, and can’t carry a tune”
The package was a trip for two, so Missy took one of her best friends, Kristen Ferrer, along for the ride. The two landed in Nashville on Friday, March 31 and headed straight to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel — “one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen in my life,” says the therapist — before meeting up with Billy at his home studio.
“Billy went out of his way to make us feel comfortable and welcomed,” she says. “He is one of the kindest, most free-spirited people I’ve met to date.”
That kindness continued as she and Kristen gathered with Billy and Nashville songwriter Cathy Majeski, who has written songs for country greats like Reba McIntire, for the songwriting part of the Nashville Experience Package.
“That was one of the best, most exciting things I’ve ever experienced,” says the therapist. “When he said, ‘we’re gonna write and record a song,’ my first thought — and I said this to him — was, ‘I don’t write and I sure can’t carry a tune!’” Kristen echoed those sentiments, but before they knew it, the two were writing a country and western song.
“The first thing we learned is how music is recorded,” says Missy. “We got the tune done, and then it was time to write.” She says Billy spent time talking with her about her favorite things and pastimes, and asked where she was from and how she spends her days and nights. “Once we started talking, the words just started flowing into what I think is gonna be a hit,” she says.
Working with Billy and Cathy was like “being in a room full of friends,” she says now. “All in all it was a surreal moment that I’ll never forget!”
Dancing for the homeless
The songwriting portion of the trip was definitely a highlight of the Nashville Experience for Missy, but that’s not all she got to do while she was in town. Unbeknownst to her or her traveling companion, Billy had arranged for them to accompany he and his wife to a local fundraising event on Saturday night.
“Dancing for Safe Haven was a charity event similar to Dancing with the Stars that featured local celebrities such as Billy Dawson that helped to raise money for Safe Haven Family Shelter,” explains the therapist. “Safe Haven is the only shelter-to-housing program of its kind in Middle Tennessee that accepts the entire homeless family — its goal is to keep the family together while they are looking for permanent housing.”
Missy says the event was a real eye-opener for she and her friend about the needs of the homeless and fit well with their own interest in helping others in their community. “We are both involved with charity projects ourselves, so this was a great experience.”
Stay tuned …
The Nashville Experience Package raffle helped to raise much needed funds to support the scholarship and research funded by the ARCF to further scientific discovery in the respiratory care profession.
For Missy Schwendiman, it was the trip of a lifetime too. Writing a country and western song with an up-and-coming recording star and well-known songwriter is something she never in her life thought she would do and she’s looking forward to sharing the song with the world.
“It is definitely being produced and recorded and will play on the radio at some point,” says the therapist. She can’t reveal too many details right now, but she did tell us that it’s a “fun, summer song, full of experiences that I’m sure everyone has had a time or two.”
Says Missy, “It’s so exciting and I cannot wait for everyone to hear it!”