PIGEON FORGE — Dolly Parton and The Dollywood Foundation announced this week that she has tapped David Dotson, the current foundation CEO, to pursue important future projects for her and her companies.
“I have worked with David for 21 years, so he certainly has a special place in my heart,” Parton said.
“I know he will help my companies create programs that will inspire children and their families. I have often said that my songs and everything I do is to help make others feel better and to encourage them to be more. This mission will be even more important when I am no longer on this earth.”
Dotson has been instrumental in shaping the Dollywood Foundation, especially the Imagination Library program which currently gifts a book each month to 1.8 million children.
Since its inception, the Imagination Library has gifted more than 150 million books to children in five countries.
“My role at the Dollywood Foundation and the Imagination Library has been a dream come true,” said Dotson. “Leading the Imagination Library from Sevier County to being a worldwide inspiration for children has given me great joy, however I look forward to this new role and new challenge with great anticipation.”
“Our past and current success has been due to special people like David who have committed their careers to its excellence and growth,” said Ted Miller, vice chairman of The Dollywood Foundation.
Parton and the Board of Directors also announced the promotion of Jeff Conyers, the current President of The Dollywood Foundation, to assume the leadership role of the organization.
“Jeff has been with us for 10 years and has proven he has the leadership skills to take over the reins. You will be hearing a lot from him as he takes us to the next level,” Parton said.
Dotson will continue his support of The Dollywood Foundation by becoming the Treasurer of the Board of Directors.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income.
After launching in 1995, the program grew quickly. The first books were only distributed to children living in Sevier County, where Dolly grew up. It became such a success that in 2000 a national replication effort was underway.
By 2003, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library had mailed one million books. It would prove to be the first of more than 150 million books currently gifted to children around the world.
Dolly’s home state of Tennessee pledged to pursue statewide coverage in 2004 and global expansion was on the horizon. After the United States, the program launched in Canada in 2006 followed by the United Kingdom in 2007, Australia in 2013 and the Republic of Ireland in 2019.
The Dollywood Foundation was created in 1988 by Dolly Parton to inspire the children in her home county to achieve educational success. Initial efforts focused on decreasing the dropout rate in the county’s high school.
In the early 1990s, Dolly promised every 7th-grade and 8th-grade student she would personally give them $500 if they graduated from high school. This effort, called the Buddy Program, reduced the dropout rate for these two classes to 6%.
More importantly, the program catalyzed the community to provide additional resources to sustain this improvement in the dropout rate.
In 2016, The Dollywood Foundation led Dolly’s efforts to assist families who lost their homes during the devastating wildfires which swept through her home county.
The Foundation’s My People Fund distributed over $12,000,000 in direct assistance to over 900 families in Sevier County.