Morris and Angels for Ashley cooking team raised over $140,000 for St. Jude

February 4, 2024 | 12:08 am

Updated February 3, 2024 | 10:34 pm

The Angels for Ashley cooking team returned to action this past week, raising over $140,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The nonprofit hosts the annual St. Jude fundraiser in collaboration with WBKR annually, but this year was different.  

Whitesville native and local BBQ icon Jerry Morris, who leads the charge, is fighting cancer himself. And despite never drawing attention to it, he said he thinks it pulled on some people’s heartstrings.

“We appreciate everything everyone gives, from $1 and $5 donations to the massive donations,” Morris said. “We’ve had this goal the last 3 to 4 years. It’s been an amazing 3 days.”

Morris launched the nonprofit in 2011 and partnered with the WBKR St. Jude Radiothon in 2013. His goal this year was $100,000. He said he leaned on several “friends” to surpass that goal.

“WBKR did an amazing job getting the news on the street for me – I think the world of them,” he said. “It takes a lot to make $140K – we cooked more than double what we typically do.”

He referred to the Angels for Ashley team as a small army, cooking and serving 1,200 Boston butts, 1,000 ribs, and 1,500 chickens over 3 days. The teams set up 5 serving spots across Owensboro and Daviess County. The 50 butts they had left over, they took to a local shelter.

To obtain his goal, Morris and his family began crafting custom wooden crosses several months back to give to his “friends” who visited him and donated during the fundraiser. There were large crosses for the $1,000 donors, slightly smaller ones for the $100 donors, and even smaller ones he distributed throughout the event.”

Word spread quickly across social media about Morris’s goal, with many reaching out to see how close he was. A quick scroll through the Angels for Ashley Facebook proves Morris has several “friends.”

One local company was so adamant he met his goal that they pitched in an anonymous $25,000. 

Morris retired from the construction business a few years back, and while he formed a positive reputation in the industry, his passion has always been helping others. He launched Angels for Ashley in 2011 to erect a home for Ashley Johnson and her family after ABC didn’t select them for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. 

He leaned on the Whitesville community, fired up the smoker, and got busy. Thanks to an incredible outpouring of support, he had $50,000 after completing the project and a namesake for his new nonprofit. 

Morris and his team cooked for 50 hours straight this week, squeezing in 2-hour naps when possible. Several of the volunteers even took vacation days at work to contribute. 

In 2017, Morris joined Benefield and the WBKR staff on a trip to St. Jude, where he witnessed firsthand the fruits of his labor. Then, he learned it took $860 million a year, which equals $2.5 million a day, to keep the lights on at St. Jude. 

That number has risen to $2.2 billion per year, and the Angels for Ashley team is committed to keeping those lights on, even if it’s for 15 minutes. So, despite the knee surgeries and chemo, Morris and his team will turn to the smokers for what they hope is a record year. 

“St. Jude is very dear to my heart – I can’t explain how I feel about it,” he said. “It’s a small miracle, and our $140,000 is just a drop in the bucket. This is a great accomplishment for the community and hopefully an inspiration to others.”

February 4, 2024 | 12:08 am

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