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Dolly Parton has offered to cover 100 per cent of Dollywood employees’ college fees.
The 76-year-old country music legend and humanitarian has been praised after her Dollywood Parks & Resorts in Tennessee announced that from February 24, it will foot the bill for the tuition and book expenses “for any employee who chooses to pursue further education.”
Dollywood has 11,000 full and part-time and seasonal workers of all ages at their 25 attractions in the US.
President Eugene Naughton said: “When our hosts strive to grow themselves, it makes our business and our community a truly better place.”
Dollywood is co-owned by Herschend Enterprises and CEO Andrew Wexler insisted: “We care about our hosts’ development and we want their future to grow because of love, not loans.”
In 2018, Dollywood announced a $37 million expansion.
The ‘9 to 5’ hitmaker’s theme park near Knoxville opened a new nature-themed land, Wildwood Grove, in 2019, which cost more than the whole park did when it was first built three decades ago.
Wildwood Grove was the first new area to be added to Dollywood since Wilderness Pass in 2008, and was part of the $300 million investment commitment the Dollywood Company made in 2013.
Dollywood President Craig Ross said at the time: “We’ve been investing heavily. This will be one of the final pieces to the $300 million commitment we made over 10 years’ time. We’re actually a few years ahead of schedule.”
And Dolly jokingly added: “Yeah we are, and I’m going to have to get out there and make some more money.”
The recent addition was heavily influenced by Dolly herself.
She said: “I’m not in every meeting of course, and they work without me, but they also like to draw on my childhood, my background and talk about what was important to me as a kid, the kind of things we did as children living in the mountains.
“And this is about like kids just exploring nature, and we were part of that because we didn’t have a lot of things like Dollywood and places like that to go then, so we really were part of nature and all the things that this area is all about, so it’s fun to actually sit and throw my ideas out and get excited about theirs.
“We were talking about the fact that kids don’t get out in nature enough anymore. Everybody’s so caught up in all their gadgets, all the social media, all the things that they do in their games, their video games and all the stuff that they do that they don’t actually even know there’s an outdoors hardly anymore.
“So we felt like this was a great thing that we could do for kids to really explore and to be adventurous and to find their own little true self, their own little natural selves, rather than all the technical stuff.”
The generous gesture comes after the Hollywood star made a $1 million donation to help fund the Modena COVID-19 vaccine.