Sugarland will sing an emotional version of its song "Stand Up" tonight (June 8) at the CMT Awards (airing at 8 p.m. ET), and the performance will have a special meaning for the Gilberts, a family from Joplin, Mo., whose home was devastated by a tornado last month.
During a rehearsal for the show on Tuesday, Tiffani and Lexi were reunited with their parents, Amy and Eric, for the first time since May 22, apart from a few hours they'd spent together viewing the wreckage of their home. Tiffani and Lexi Gilbert will will wave flags and sing along during the country duo's performance, during which producers will call upon viewers to make donations to the American Red Cross. Sugarland recently released a live version of the song recorded with Little Big Town -- entitled "Stand Up For Tornado Relief," the performance is available for download on iTunes, with proceeds also going to the Red Cross for tornado relief in Alabama and Joplin.
Video: Sugarland Q&A at CMT Awards Rehearsal
"The great thing about making this download available is that it...will continue to give," Sugarland's Kristian Bush told Billboard on Tuesday. "There is no limit as to how much it can raise for relief efforts."
When Bush and Jennifer Nettles wrote "Stand Up," they had no idea the impact it would have on people whose lives were uprooted by last month's storms in the Midwest and Southeast. The idea for the song was Bush's, and he had part of it written when he arrived at Nettles' door one morning for a writing session.
"Really, all we had to do was finish the second verse and we had a song," Nettles said.
The Gilberts were brought to the CMT Awards attention by a personal friend who works for MTV. CMT producers approached Sugarland about incorporating the family into their performance of "Stand Up" on the awards. The family, who are big fans of Sugarland, met the group during rehearsals. Lexi was especially excited that Justin Bieber is scheduled to be at the awards, and during Tuesday's rehearsal, she asked to sit in the seat that he'll reportedly be occupying in the audience.
Since the last time they were together -- the day after the tornado, when the girls went to stay with family while their parents made sense of the wreckage that was their home -- the Gilberts have purchased a new home, where all four will be living together again by the end of June.
"It has been very hard to be away from Tiffani and Lexi, but Joplin is no place for children to be right now," a tearful Amy Gilbert said. "When we were driving to Nashville, Lexi just started crying and I asked her what was wrong, and she said she had just missed us so much. It is so good for us to be together, if just for a little while. But since we were able to buy a house so quickly, we know it won't be long until we'll all be back together again permanently."
Eric Gilbert described the day of the storm as a regular day, with the possibility of rain later in the evening. "We even measured Lexi's height on a wall where we had been charting her growth progress," he said. "It was significant later that we had done that, because people going through our house found that board and cut it out and brought it to us. We'll always have that as a piece of our history from that day."
When a huge oak tree fell in their backyard, the family took shelter first in the kitchen, then in a bathroom. Lexi recounted how their two dogs, Prince and Tinkerbell, were in the house with them and how brave they were throughout the storm. Two days later, a neighbor who was helping with clean-up found their cat, Tigger, crouching under a piece of furniture.
Sugarland is just one of many country music acts who have offered help and support for the recent storm victims, and Nettles was quick to praise her peers. "Our friends in country music have big hearts and are among the first to step up to give back when there is a need to help people who have suffered loss."