Live Like You Were Dying…

By Jill Waggoner

“If you had just one-day

‘Til the breath left your body

Til the Lord took your soul


Would you still be afraid

To live in the moment

To let it all go”

Bryan Galentine wrote these words in 2002 for his song “Fly,” and today, he finds himself living them.

Bryan, known professionally as Bryan Wayne, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS,) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in April 2017.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The terminal, horrific disease eventually robs individuals of their abilities to move, eat, speak and, ultimately, breathe.

When Bryan began to realize the prognosis he would be facing, he asked himself some tough questions, along with his wife Staci. In short, if he knew his time was limited, what would he do?

“It does change how you view life. What are you going to do differently? What do you wish you had thought about before?” explained Staci.

First, Bryan made an album.

“When I knew that ALS could take my voice, I knew I had to hit the studio and put my voice on some of the songs that I’ve written over the years… I wanted my wife and boys to hear me singing forever. No matter what,” said Bryan. “It’s more than just a record.”

Within the week of his official diagnosis, Bryan and a group of his musician friends were in the home studio of country music artist Big Kenny, recording the first songs of his album, While You Wait. While Bryan has spent most of his adult life in the music business, recording an album was never in his plans. He’s enjoyed a successful career behind the scenes as a professional songwriter.

Bryan, Staci and their sons Grayson and Bennett have lived in Wilson County for 11 years. Bryan struck success with “What If She’s an Angel,” a song recorded by singer Tommy Shane Steiner. The song, which asks listeners how they would react to people in need, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts in May 2002 and achieved BMI’s “Million-Air” status.

Bryan and his wife, Staci, with their two boys, Grayson and Bennett.

When putting together what he hopes will be his legacy on While Your Wait, Bryan carefully chose songs that he had written over the last 25 years. Songs like “Fly,” “Simplify” and “No More Rainy Days” share compelling, inspirational messages for those of us caught in the daily grind. “Still Beautiful” and “A Good Day” were inspired by his wife and children. In recent weeks, his songs have been gaining national exposure on country radio, podcasts and more.

It’s remarkable to understand that these songs were all written long before he faced this terrible disease. His diagnosis of ALS hasn’t changed his faith, his positivity and his overwhelming love for friends and family. It’s all there in the lyrics, but there is now a new power to his words and a new purpose in his heart. Rather than simply promoting an album, Bryan is devoting his platform to spreading awareness about ALS and working toward a finding cure.

  • John Rich and Bryan have a conversation at a release party for While You Wait.
  • Cover art for the album While You Wait.
  • Bryan and his family along with his musician friends at the home studio of Big Kenny.
  • Neil Thraser shakes Bryan’s hand during a release party for While You Wait
  • Bryan sings one of his own songs.
  • Jason Blaine sings while Bryan and others look on.

Millions of people have participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which began over four years ago, including the Galentines and their children. Yet, many could not tell you its purpose or anything about ALS.

This reality is a catalyst for Bryan to promote understanding about the disease. Most recently, Bryan serves a board member with I AM ALS, a patient-led movement that seeks to accelerate the search for a cure. He hopes to lobby soon on Capitol Hill for more ALS research and better care.

Locally, Mayor Randall Hutto will be honoring Bryan with a proclamation at the County Commission in May, which is also ALS awareness month. “This is a vicious, horrible disease,” said Bryan. “I’m going to lose my voice. I’m going to lose my ability to eat, to move and eventually breathe. But so many people out there don’t have the platform that I have. I’m trying to spend every moment being their voice. This disease needs to be eradicated. No family should have to go through this.”

Bryan has also made a priority the last two years of living out the lyrics found in his song, “Fly,” which, interestingly, was first recorded on the day he met his wife, Staci: “Who knows what tomorrow’s gonna bring; What are you waiting for, Spread your wings.” This living-in-the-moment song meant so much to Bryan and Staci that they gave out copies at their wedding.
Bryan explains, “What have you always wanted to do or learn how to do and why aren’t you doing it? If you’ve got something you want to do… do it now.” For Bryan, that included learning how to make an omelet, a skill he is proud to say he has mastered. He also learned how to dribble a basketball around his back and through his legs, but now is unable to do because of the progression of his disease.

He and Staci have also focused on creating memories with their boys, Grayson and Bennett. With help from organizations who serve families after such a diagnosis, they have been able to travel together to Disney World, sporting events and of course, some country music concerts, in recent months.

Bryan also shares his message of gratitude and positivity on the Facebook Page, Find the Good Stuff, through memes, videos, and stories. Again, this outlet was created before the diagnosis. Yet Bryan says that what’s important to him has “absolutely changed” since his discovering he had ALS. “Just like my song, ‘Wake Up World,’ it’s made me wake up and realize what’s most important. Time to make memories with Staci and the boys — number one. Also, reconnecting with friends and family,” Bryan said.

The Galentines’ community – from every facet of their lives – has rallied to their support since the diagnosis. Friends from Wilson County, the Nashville music community, as well as those from Bryan’s home in Northern Virginia have come together to support them in numerous ways. “We definitely consider our friends here our family,” said Bryan. “They’ve just been amazing: bringing us food, gifts out of the blue, helping with the boys, putting us on their prayer chains at church. That’s family.”

As those around them seek to encourage the Galentines during this difficult time, many have come away encouraged as well. “Staci is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met,” said Jenny Bennett, who works at Cumberland University with Staci. “She is kind and cares deeply about others. When we met, it occurred to me that I already had been praying for them at my church. We became instant family.”

In November 2018, when the album was released, Bryan found his voice unable to perform his songs. Several of his While You Wait co-writers joined him on stage for a release party in Nashville. Six-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley performed the title cut, and GRAMMY winner and 2004 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Neil Thrasher sang “Just Wouldn’t Leave It Alone.” GRAMMY-nominated songwriter Bonnie Baker sang the moving “No More Rainy Days;” Jason Blaine performed “Slow Time Down;” and Joanna Janet performed “Fly.” Big & Rich wrapped up the evening performing Bryan’s single,“Simplify,” along with many others.

“I was blown away to see so many people show up and lend their support,” said Bryan. “This industry has been good to my family and me, and I hope these songs inspire people for many years to come.”

His support from the music community extended all the way to the stage at 2018’s Soul2Soul tour in Nashville, featuring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. During the Saturday night show, knowing Bryan and Staci were among the sold-out crowd, McGraw dedicated that night’s performance of “Live Like You Were Dying” to Bryan.

“It’s just like the song,” Bryan said. “None of us know when that’s going to happen. Based on odds, I have a more realistic timeline. We hope and pray for a cure, but the odds are not good. Only 10 percent live 5 years past their diagnosis. I’m two years in. “I’m at peace at where I’m going. I’m not really angry about having this diagnosis. God has put this on me to use it as a platform to spread the underlying message of kindness, goodness… find the good stuff. That’s my role here.”

The lyrics of “Wake Up World,” co-written with Greg Bieck, sums up well what Bryan would say to you, if you were sitting together at the coffee shop…

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Confidence. Discipline. Character.

Hunter Wright

By Jill Waggoner

All this and more, Hunter Wright, has found at the speed of 80 miles per hour on a quarter-mile track. Hunter, an 18-year-old senior at Wilson Central High School, began racing when he was just 4 years old. But before Hunter ever got behind the wheel, he was watching his father, Dwayne Wright, race cars at Highland Rim Speedway in Ridgetop, Tenn. Dwayne no longer races, but in a full circle moment, Hunter claimed two of his own championships at Highland Rim, now known at the Veterans Motorplex at The Rim, in March.

Hunter cringes at the word “career,” but he’s been working toward his racing goals for over a decade. He maintains a schedule that would intimidate most adults. He attends high school, plays football when in season and spends most of his free time working on his cars with his dad. He’s made tremendous sacrifices in his teen years, mostly social, in order to pursue these dreams.

Hunter races regularly on tracks in Middle Tennessee, but will participate in races in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia this year. He would love to spend a lifetime in the driver’s seat, but also would be happy if he could continue working on the race cars professionally.

Hunter Wright’s Late Model race car on the track.

“This is a lot more fun that just a job,” said Hunter.

The car Hunter races has grown with him. He began his career in a small Quarter Midget model, which was created as a safe and fun way for children to become involved in racing. Wilson Living featured an article on Hunter while he was racing these cars in 2009. Today he races two types of cars, the Legends series, which is a 5/8-scale version of an early NASCAR modified car, and the Late Model, which looks like a car you could see on the road.

There are other teens who compete in these racing circuits, but both the Legends series and the Late Model series are semi-professional adult leagues. Hunter has been competing at this level since age 15.

“Over the past few years, it’s made me mature more quickly because of all the responsibility and sacrifice,” said Hunter.

“He’s in an adult sport and we expect adult things out of him,” added his mom, Julie Wright.

Hunter is not your average high school student. Yet, he’s also not your average race car driver.

“At the big events, most people lease a car, or they own the car, but pay someone to work on it. The driver just shows up to drive,” explained Hunter. As has been the case for over 10 years, Hunter and his dad do all the work on their cars themselves, adapting the set-up of the car for each track and performing any repairs. They have a home garage on their family property in Gladeville, Tenn., where the Wright family also owns and operates Premier Sign & Trophy. Julie is also actively involved in his career, managing his social media, and his little sister is his “biggest fan.”


ABOVE: Hunter Wright with his 5/8 Scale Modified race car is the 2018 Champion.

“When we’re at the big events, I don’t really have time to get extremely nervous,” said Hunter. “Dad and I are just constantly hustling. I don’t have time to stop and think until I get everything done and get in the car and am waiting to race. That’s when it settles in.”

Yet, he says his favorite part is “racing.”

He says the Legends are his favorite to race. Up to twenty-eight cars compete at rapid speed on a quarter-mile track and can complete 25 laps in under 10 minutes–without caution flags.

“We’ve won six championships in the last two seasons,” said Hunter. “Most nights Dad and I are out here working on the car, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Not only does Hunter assist with the maintenance of his cars, but he also primarily manages the relationships with all his sponsors.

“We greatly appreciate the way our sponsors have been able to make this all possible,” said Hunter.

His current sponsors include a variety of local businesses: B. H. Holmes Construction, Tennessee 811, Springfield Plumbing, J & D Specialized Equipment Hauling, Ace Fence Supply, Wholesale Trailers, Sanders Lawn Care, Al’s Tire Repair, Old Dominion Brush Company, and Standing Ovation Entertainment Management & Marketing.

Hunter’s family and Wilson Central have forged a partnership during his high school career in order to allow him to pursue his dreams, all while attending school.

“Wilson Central has embraced us,” said Julie. Hunter is currently enrolled in the Work-Based Learning Course there, which allows him to leave a little early and spend more time working toward his racing goals. His enrollment in this course allows him to build on his Automotive Program of Study at Wilson Central, while pursuing his love of racing.

“Mrs. Jennifer Allen has been one of my teachers all four years and she understood what I want to do,” said Hunter. “Mr. Travis Mayfield, our principal, also has been very helpful and understanding.”

“Hunter is a great young man,” said Mayfield. “He is a good student, very mature and the kind of student that everyone likes. I hope all my students realize their dreams, accomplish their goals in life and are happy. In addition to that, for Hunter, I just hope he keeps the rubber on the road!”

“Hunter has integrity and initiative to get what he wants,” said Allen. “I believe that no matter what he chooses to do, he will be successful. He has the drive and determination to learn, along with an entrepreneurial spirit. That is what impresses me the most, he is not afraid to try. He gives his all to whatever he is pursuing and that will get him where he wants to be.”

Graduation will mark the end of a personal chapter for Hunter. He will be starting at Tennessee College of Applied Technologies for machining, a skill set he can learn and apply to racing, and he hopes his racing will only continue improving.

He is seeing some of his biggest goals coming to fruition this year. He has plans to compete in major races around the country in the months ahead.

“I never thought I’d get to do the majority of them, and now I get to do them all in one year,” said Hunter.

For every mile of the track, the Wright family has been in this endeavor together. Damien and Julie are proud of their son and are excited about his future because they know the character he has formed is what’s most important. “I’m proud that when he wins, he gives away his trophy to a kid in the stands,” said Julie.

“I’m proud that he deals with the majority of our sponsors and the relationships that he forms. I’m more proud of those types of life experiences than how many championships he has won.”

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