Christian singer Danny Gokey shared messages of inspiration Saturday during a benefit concert at the Douglas County Fair for the Howell family, which lost a mother and five children in a Riddle house fire March 1.

“When I heard about this cause for our Christian brother Jimmy Howell (the father), I was touched,” Gokey said to the crowd during the concert.

After the fire, James Howell remained in serious condition at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center for four weeks. He now lives with family members in Riddle and Monroe as they recover from their tragic loss.

“We are here to lift him up, and we are here to bring strength, and we are here to get behind him and to get underneath him while he’s walking through this situation,” Gokey said. “God has grace for every battle that we walk through.”

Gokey told the story of how he, too, suffered the loss of his wife, Sophia, to complications from heart surgery a month before he auditioned for “American Idol” in 2008. Despite his grief, he promised his wife he would audition, and it turned out to be a big success for him.

Gokey followed with the song “Rise” that’s also the title of his new album released earlier this year. The crowd grew emotional and audience members rose to their feet with hands waving in the air from side to side as Gokey sang.

“I am inspired by the hope you possess and the optimism you posses,” Gokey said to James Howell’s mother-in-law, who was in the audience. He followed with the song “The Comeback.”

Other members of the blended Riddle family were also in attendance. Tyler Young of Green, the father of two of the children lost in the fire, Isaiah and Andrew Young, was expected at the concert, according to his parents, Rick and Yvette Young of Tenmile, who were sitting in the front row.

“This is about Jimmy, he was there in the house, but there are so many other people involved with this,” Yvette Young said.

The Youngs said they comforted all the members of the Howell family as they struggled together to get through the difficult time.

“We feel blessed that they’re doing this for Jimmy, and we’re here to support him in the healing process,” Rick Young said. “We are close to Jimmy, and we want to be part of his life.”

Yvette Young’s best friend Marcie Myers from Salem also came to the concert to show support.

“When a family has such a huge loss with expenses that hit you out of nowhere, to have a community come together to provide support for that huge financial need is amazing,” Myers said.

Some concertgoers had no idea about the benefit concert and were there to see Gokey sing because they remembered him from “American Idol.” Gokey was among the top three singers in Season 8 of the show in 2009.

“I have been following Danny Gokey since he came off ‘American Idol,’” said Elaine Bensavage of Salem. She has seen Gokey in concert at least 20 times and has traveled on three Carnival cruises that hosted him as a singer.

“I am into Danny Gokey,” said Bensavage, who planned to contribute a report to a fan website after the concert. “He has a very unique voice.”

Jessica Stone, a Gokey fan from Roseburg, said, “I think the concert was awesome, he’s one of my favorites. I think it’s great that the community will help the family, get behind them and try to support them.”

The concert was hosted by the Umpqua Valley Youth for Christ in partnership with A Day of Grace, a Christian-based concert promotional company that funds the needs of families enduring hardships.

The Gokey concert is the first Christian concert to be held at the Douglas County Fair in more than 20 years.

Reporter Vera Westbrook can be reached at 541-957-4216 or vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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Education and Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Vera Westbrook is the education, nonprofits, and arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4216 or by email at vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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