Support takes center stage at Barley, BBQ & Beats

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Support will take center stage this weekend in Grand Rapids.

Hospice of Michigan’s Barley, BBQ & Beats will take over DeVos Place Saturday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., raising awareness and money to provide access to a no-questions-asked, no-matter-the-diagnosis, quality end-of-life care.

“Every single year we raise about $5 million and all of that takes care of patients, regardless of age, their diagnosis or their ability to pay,” Marcie Hillary, executive vice president and chief experience officer for HOM, explained. “That means the pediatric patient that needs specialized end of life care gets it. That means the patient who doesn’t have insurance and they don’t know where else to turn, it doesn’t matter, they get the same care as everyone else. So the complexity of the case doesn’t matter. That’s why we do this and we can’t do it without our supporters’ help.”

One of the families of supporters are the originators of the idea for Barley, BBQ & Beats. The Clay family started their own community barbecue through Miller Welding in the early 2000s. It was something that Jerry Clay, the owner, was passionate about. Years before the event began, Miller Welding supported Hospice of Michigan with tables at its annual gala or runners and walkers in the 5K. The barbecue was Jerry’s personal touch on giving back.

“As a family and a company, (we) kind of rallied around Hospice of Michigan and that was our charity of choice,” his daughter LeeAnn Clay said. “The first year it was probably $3,800. And then it was $6,000. And there were years that you know, 50, 60, 70, 100,000. And over the 18 years that we did that barbecue, I think we raised close to a million dollars.”

It became a part of the DNA for the company, the barbecue and Hospice of Michigan. Employees would give to Hospice at the end of the year rather than get the owners a Christmas present. Others needed to lean into the services offered by the end-of-life organization.

Jerry Clay’s wife Toni Clay still supports the group even after their own barbecue ended and her husband passed. LeeAnn Clay serves on the foundation board and granddaughter Claire Ryan is the committee chair for the Barley, BBQ & Beats in Detroit.

“I am proud to say that the Barley, BBQ & Beats was benchmarked off of the Miller Welding barbecue,” LeeAnn said. “It’s really cool. I mean, it’s a proud moment for us as a company, as a family and the Miller Welding family, because a lot of our people volunteer and support and attend the events.”

Since the original barbecue, Hospice’s Barley, BBQ & Beats has grown to include the entire state, with the stops not just in Grand Rapids and Detroit but also Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Alpena.

This weekend in Grand Rapids, Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw will make a special appearance. Everyone in attendance will be treated to good eats, good drinks and good music while raising money for a good cause.

To make an even greater impact, the Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation will match all donations from Barley, BBQ & Beats through Dec. 31.

The generations of Clays, along with the support of the Miller Welding family, will make sure the reason it started in the first place is on proud display, support for all.

“When we talk about Hospice, we always talk about, it’s a family. It’s a family of workers. It’s a family unit that we take care of. It’s not just the patient and family, but when it comes to our volunteers and our donors, it’s extended his family as well,” Hillary said. “And I feel that way with this family in particular. We’ve all grown up together doing this work for Hospice of Michigan and there’s something really beautiful about that.”

Tickets are still available for the Grand Rapids event. Learn more online here.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to