BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Vince Gill and other stars spread their creative wings for a great cause.

The stars paint 'em and you can buy 'em. For the third straight year, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Keith Urban, Wynonna, Vince Gill and many more have shown off their artistic talents for The Birdhouse Thing, a fund-raiser for the W.O. Smith/Nashville Community Music School.

But this event doesn't require singing talent. Instead, the stars actually design, paint and autograph birdhouses that are then auctioned off to the highest bidder. The money raised is donated to the W.O. Smith School, which provides affordable musical education for low-income children. Fans bid on their favorites online at eBay or at the school's annual fund-raising event in Nashville.

Tim McGraw and daughter Gracie always mark The Birdhouse Thing on their calendar and build their own haven for our feathered friends. Dad and daughter can be proud of their handiwork - their birdhouse drew this year's highest bid, $510.

Not too far behind was Martina McBride's creation, which included a picture of a "Broken Wing," named for one of her big hits, and the sheet music to the song. Martina's fetched a soaring $455.

The band Lonestar also played off one of their hits, "My Front Porch Looking In." Their birdhouse, which all the band members signed, featured an inviting front porch, something no feathered creature could resist.

Vince Gill and the trio Rascal Flatts picked the same theme for their houses - golf. Vince built a mock-up of a putting green with a golf ball and a flag that read 18TH HOLE, clever enough to draw a bid of more than $200.

And if a birdhouse bid is any barometer, the hottest newcomer on the block was Jimmy Wayne, hands down. Jimmy's decorated domicile went for $410 - proving how much one fan loved the "I Love You This Much" singer.

Jessica Andrews and boyfriend Marcel picked an appropriate theme, a love nest. "When I was asked to do this," said Jessica, "I said yes right away. This is really a worthwhile cause."

The Birdhouse Thing raised more than $50,000, nearly $12,000 more than last year, according to Jonah Rabinowitz, the school's director. "It's our single biggest fund-raising event of the year," he explains. "We're so pleased that the stars are always willing to help."

One of those stars, Wynonna Judd, did her part with help from her son, Elijah. "This is one of the fun things that we get to do every year," notes Wynonna. "The only limit is your imagination. And it benefits an important organization in our community."

-- Bob Paxman

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