By Michele Stevens Bernard, TSB Lifestyle Editor
After the final bell rang, dismissing the McKinney High School graduating class of 1991, students dispersed and went their separate ways.
While one road took a teenage girl into the world of medicine, motherhood and corporate America, another teenage boy himself following his dreams into the world of country music.
Such is the case of former classmates Shannon Strickland Winburn and Johnny Pope, the band 121 North’s drummer, who today find themselves, along with a few of their friends, crossing paths on behalf of a greater good. Winburn and Pope, along with Brandi Littrell Howell, Mendi Springs Budman and Joanna Joplin, present their second Annual Susan G. Komen event featuring 121 North. The event is slated to take place Saturday, Aug. 11, at Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anna, north of McKinney. Showtime begins at 8 p.m.
The ladies will present the funds raised on behalf of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which tackles breast cancer, when they tackle the 60 mile 3-Day walk in Dallas November 2-4.
“Johnny competed against me in our 8th-grade talent show and he beat me,” says Winburn, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor. “He was a drummer. Even back then he had a band. How he won, I don’t know. I mean, I did my cheerleader dance. I wore my sparkly bubble suit. I even had dry ice for special effects smoke, and new Ked tennis shoes, and he still beat me. And he still likes to rub it in.”
Winburn laughs as she recalls the fun she and her friend have at her expense and adds, “Seriously though, his band 121 North has been doing so well. I’m so proud of him. They have a great following, and I knew when we wanted to do this type of fund-raiser, I wanted to reach out to him.”
“I don’t have a personal connection with breast cancer [like Shannon does] but I think it’s important to promote breast cancer awareness and support my classmates in their efforts,” says Pope, “We actually did a benefit [together] last year and had pretty good success. When she called and suggested we do something together this year I said heck yeah! I’ll do whatever I can to help them raise money to be able to walk.”
In addition to providing entertainment for the event, 121 North will also donate money raised from the evening’s CD sales to support the cause.
“Last year’s event was a really fun night,” says Pope. “And this year, I expect people will be in for an entertaining, fun friendly time. There will be some great music, with originals and covers. We plan to put on a heck of a show.”
With their unique spin on alternative Texas country, not to mention, southern rock, 121 North’s fan base continues to grow, as does their touring schedule. Recently signed by LPC Management, the band, known for their complex harmonies and melodies wrapped in a soulful Texas twang looks forward to playing larger venues before even larger audiences.
“We put everything we can into what we do,” says Pope. “We’re out there doing what we love to do and the doors are starting to open.”
Along with Pope, Max O’Neil, Wade Kilgore, and Justin Till make up 121 North.
“We’re just four very level headed, easy going, no ego kind of guys, with really no expectations, who like to get out there and give it 100 percent,” says Pope. “And on Saturday night, we plan to push the right buttons and make some noise.”
The Susan G. Komen 3-Day raises money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It sees participant taking their commitment to end breast cancer one step further when they, as Winburn’s team will do, walk 60 miles over the course of three days.
According to The3Day.org, 75 percent of the net proceeds raised by the 3-Day fund national research and large public health outreach programs. The remaining 25 percent funds local community and Affiliate outreach programs.
“We had so much fun doing this last year that two more classmates joined in this year,” says Winburn. “They have organized a silent auction that will be a part of Saturday night’s fun as well. Johnny and 121 North, as well as Billy’s Bar and Grill are so generous to do what they are doing for us. They are even donating a portion of the evening’s cover to the cause.”
Billy’s Bar and Grill is located at 12456 Texas 121 in Anna. The band 121 North is slated to hit the stage at 8 p.m. The cover charge for the evening is $15 or $10 for those who wear pink.
Photos courtesy of Johnny Pope of 121 North and Shannon Winburn.