As Generations United celebrate Grandparents Day and honor grandparents, we are proud to announce the release of Grand Successes: Stories of lives well-raised. Grand Successes tells the stories of just some of the many successful individuals raised by their grandparents or other grandfamilies.
Like Shea McClellin and Jimmy Wayne, country singer and American Idol alum Kelli Pickler has found fame and success because of the support and love of her grandparents. Pickler has been involved with Generations United for some time, and lent her voice to celebrate and encourage other grandfamily caregivers and children at the 2008 GrandRally.
When asked how she found the courage to audition for American Idol, Kelli Pickler has a ready answer: her grandparents, Faye and Clyde Pickler. The bubbly, energetic country singer says her grandparents’ love and devotion gave her the confidence to forge ahead with a singing career.
Pickler’s parents had had a tumultuous relationship, separating when she was just two years old. Her father struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol and couldn’t care for her properly. Consequently, Pickler’s grandparents became her primary caregivers when she was very young. Their willingness to step up and provide the best for Pickler is undoubtedly a great factor in the singer’s success.
Pickler’s grandmother, Faye, piqued her interest in music. “[My grandmother] had a collection of children's books, and one of those was a songbook. We would sit on the swing on the front porch, and I would just sing my heart out,” Pickler recalls.
But it was her grandfather, Clyde, who took Pickler to her American Idol audition and succeeded in calming her before her performance. “He said, ‘Sit down Kelli, we're here now, what do you have to lose?’” The rest is history—Pickler had nothing to lose, and all to gain.
Music saved Pickler when her grandmother passed away while Pickler was still in high school. Like any great artist, she eased her pain through a creative outlet. Her first album closes with a song called “My Angel,” a heartfelt tribute to her grandmother.
Pickler has not shied away from opportunities to encourage those who find themselves in situations similar to hers growing up. Demonstrating her appreciation for the care and support of her grandparents and the millions of grandparents raising grandchildren across the U.S., Picker sang “My Angle,” and spoke words of encouragement to nearly 1000 grandparents raising grandchildren and their supporters at a national GrandRally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. in 2008.
And Pickler’s tribute to her grandmother travels with her wherever she goes. Each time Pickler climbs into the RV that serves as her home away from home while on tour, she’s reminded of her beloved “Grandma.” The name she gave her RV? Faye.
To read more inspiring stories of people raised in grandfamilies, download Generations United publication Grand Successes: Stories of Lives Well-Raised today!