We were shocked and so saddened to hear of the sudden death of Granger Smith’s three-year-old son, River Kelly Smith, in early June 2019. Smith is a beloved country star known for hits like Backyard Song. On June 6, 2019, Smith announced to his Instagram followers that his young son tragically passed away from a drowning accident. Immediately, an avalanche of sympathy and support for his family began to pour in.
While the grief that follows a loss of this magnitude is on-going, one way that the Smith family sought healing was to give back generously to the children’s hospital that worked to save River’s life. Granger and his wife Amber harnessed the public’s energy and sympathy, inviting supporters to fundraise in River’s honor, through the sales of the River Tribute Shirt. Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Texas is a world-class hospital serving the complex medical needs of children across Central Texas. Less than a month after River passed away, Granger returned to Dell Children’s to present a donation of $218,791 to the hospital’s care team.
In a moving speech in honor of his son, Smith gave praise to God and expressed his unending gratitude to the hospital staff who worked so hard to save his son’s life. “I don’t know how you do it, but I thank God every day that there are people like you that love what you do and are so passionate about it.”
The Smith family felt profoundly connected to the medical and care team at Dell Children’s Hospital who held their hands through their devastating experience. Through tears, River’s mom Amber expressed her gratitude. “In our worst couple of days, you made us so comfortable. And I pray that nobody else ever has to go through what we’ve gone through, but if they do, I hope they come [to Dell Children’s Hospital], because you all were incredible.” Granger echoed his wife’s sentiments. “We watched you, through our eyes… through grieving eyes, in the worst of times. We watched you speak to our little boy like he heard you, and we were hearing it. You were speaking to us, and it mattered.”
Although the River Smith Shirts are currently sold out, Granger announced plans to sell more tribute shirts this upcoming fall to continue to honor his son’s legacy and help fund the live-saving work of Dell Children’s Hospital.