Former Without Walls pastor starts foundation in daughter's name

St. Petersburg Times/September 25, 2009

Tampa - Losing a daughter to brain cancer left Randy White reeling.

Kristen Renee White was 30 when she died in his arms, eight months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. She left a son, 10, and a daughter, 5.

"It was the most devastating thing in my entire life," he said. "There's not a day that I don't cry. You have no idea the pain."

Determined to "take this and do something good with it," the former pastor of Without Walls International Church has started the Kristen Renee Foundation.

Dual goals are feeding the poor and funding brain cancer research.

"Kristen loved our feeding programs to the indigent,'' White said.

He noted that she and U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy suffered from the same kind of cancer. "They had almost identical scenarios,'' he said, "several operations, radiation and chemo."

White, 51, worried about his own health, was recently evaluated at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. That scare, which was not cancer, he said, helped him decide to resign as senior pastor of the church.

Since July, his ex-wife, Paula, with whom he founded Without Walls in 1991, has led the church, which once had more than 20,000 members.

The couple's divorce, announced in August 2007, was followed within months by an investigation conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance. Without Walls was one of six ministries asked to document executive compensation, personal assets and expenses.

Since his resignation, said White, he is not kept current on the status of the inquiry.

"I don't think any of the six of us have heard anything," he said. "So far as I know, I have answered every question of Sen. [Chuck] Grassley."

In November 2008 while White was still senior pastor, California-based Evangelical Christian Credit Union began foreclosing on two of Without Walls' church properties. Those properties are no longer in foreclosure.

White, though, says the financial questions that arose during his tenure at the church have nothing to do with the foundation.

White has named former church employee Brandon McDaniel, 29, of Tampa, executive director of the Kristen Renee Foundation. The Tampa native is a graduate of Gaither High and the University of South Florida.

"My job is to take the vision and direction of Randy White and make it happen,'' said McDaniel, who has worked in the mortgage industry. "I'm his right-hand guy, his biggest supporter. Anything he wants to accomplish, I'll be there."

McDaniel has helped White with public relations, marketing, Web design, real estate dealings, and bank and foreclosure issues.

"I will be spokesperson, the face of the foundation,'' White said. "Brandon will oversee finances and technical operations." Board members include White, New York Mets baseball star Gary Sheffield, David Hamilton of Maryland and evangelist Mike Gulledge of North Florida.

White said he travels constantly. His house on Bayshore Boulevard is for sale. He says he has always had "over 10 streams of income outside the church," including speaking fees.

He hopes to raise at least $250,000 the first year, which will come from donations, his speaking fees and a music venture.

"I am not a songwriter,'' he said, "but I wrote a song two weeks after Kristen passed." He was thousands of miles in the air, on a flight to Texas, remembering her life.

His memories became Piece of My Heart, now recorded by one of Tim McGraw's backup singers. A music video came next, and soon a TV commercial will air nationally, paid for by White.

"I'm getting ready to shop the song around to get a more recognized person to put it out there on CMT (Country Music Television) and Christian video to generate funds."

Look for the charismatic preacher to host a star-studded fundraiser in Tampa in the near future.

"I have a lot of A-list celebrity friends, stars and athletes,'' he said. "I want to bring them in to give [the foundation] exposure."

White is also launching a parallel organization, One Less, to focus on disaster relief. It will be based in Tampa, and Sheffield will be a board member.

"I got that idea as I watched the devastation from Hurricane Katrina when they couldn't get food in,'' White said. One Less will partner with Operation Compassion of Cleveland, Tenn., to buy a semitrailer truck that can deliver food to flooded areas.

As the name implies, "one less person will go hungry and in need," he said.

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