Country music star’s personal struggle inspires fight for life

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Country music star Collin Raye took up the mantle of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network in September and is using his personal story of loss to promote the sanctity of life.

The singer has 15 number one hits, 25 top ten songs and five country music nominations for Best Male Vocalist of the Year. He explained to The Daily Caller the mission of the Life & Hope Network.

“The ultimate goal is to work toward saving people until a day comes when something like [Terri’s case] never happens again,” Ray said. “But in the meantime it is happening on a day basis, every single day with people who are being denied food and water — and not on extraordinary means of life support.”

Terri Schiavo’s family started the organization after her death. The Florida woman died of starvation and dehydration in 2005 after her husband won a court battle to remove her feeding tube.

Raye’s cause is also a personal one. He watched his young granddaughter Haley die of an undiagnosed disease and, early on, he made the decision to keep his wife Connie on life support when she fell into a nine-week coma due to complications from the early birth of their son Jacob.

“Moral of the story is, nobody is going to tell me that in Terri’s case, or people like her, it’s a slam-dunk what their quality of life is going to be,” Raye said of his wife’s recovery. “You cannot determine that. It it not up to any other human being whether it be a medical panel or hospital panel or a doctor or a family member who just wants to move on.”

While The Life & Hope Network has been fighting for people who are in Terri’s condition, its work has attracted controversy.

In May, WTSP news in St. Petersburg, Fla. reported that Michael Schiavo threatened to sue the foundation for misusing Schaivo’s name.

The foundation’s funding picture has also become controversial. According to WTSP, the Life & Hope Network’s 2008 tax return showed that while it took in $91,568, the Schindler family retained 64 percent of the funds ($59,275).

The Schindler family’s attorney explained to WTSP that the high amount of money going to employee salaries is due to the relatively low funding level in general.

Raye, however, says standing up for life is central to what it means to be American.

“The preamble of the Declaration of Independence is ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ Everybody forgets about the ‘Life’ part,” he said. “There is a lot of concern with ‘the Pursuit of Happiness’ and plenty concern about ‘Liberty.’ There is not as much with life, and our Founding Fathers put that first, because without the the other two don’t mean much. ”

Raye says more than 1,000 families have sought out the organization’s help.

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Caroline May