Southern Gospel Sweethearts: Kari Gooch of Karen Peck and New River

Kari Gooch of Karen Peck and New River
Kari Gooch of Karen Peck and New River

Cancer. If a word could physically punch you in the gut and knock the wind right out of you, that one would. It’s a word that sends shivers down your spine and pierces fear right to the heart. It knows no limits and holds back none of its wrath. It is no respecter of gender, age, race or status. Even now, as you read these words, at least one person will come to your mind that you know who has battled this relentless disease. It’s a word that you wouldn’t wish for your worst enemy, and you especially wouldn’t want for your dearest loved one.

In 2015, the reality of that dreaded word hit home in the Gooch household. Kari Gooch of Karen Peck and New River explains how that one of her family’s hardest trials became one of its greatest triumphs.

February of 2015 was the month that the Gooch family found out that Rickey Gooch, Kari’s dad, had cancer.

“After a neck scan, two biopsies, a CT scan and a PET scan, Rickey was diagnosed with squamous carcinoma, a type of cancer” (K.P. Gooch, 2015, In an open letter to KPNR

Rickey and Karen Peck Gooch of Karen Peck and New River
Rickey and Karen Peck Gooch

followers, Karen Peck said, “Thank the Lord,” as they were relieved to find out the cancer was “confined to Rickey’s left tonsil area and had not spread anywhere else within his body.”  In that same letter, Karen explained the difficulty of watching her husband suffer through all of his symptoms. It was certainly a trying time for all of them, including Kari’s older brother Matthew.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the light in dark situations, but Kari didn’t shy away from giving God praise when I asked her about her dad’s battle. Kari shared with me that when her family would go on the road for the weekend, she would stay home to be with her dad.

“It definitely drew us closer,” explains Kari. “My dad is the backbone of our family. When he got sick, it made us realize that we should never take each other for granted.”

Kari shared with me how her family experienced moments of encouragement in different ways.

“As he went through his treatments, there were a lot of incredible people who would give us words of encouragement,” Kari remembers. “All of the songs we sing have different meanings. But, the song we sing, “I Am Blessed,” was a great reminder that no matter what we may go through, we still can count our blessings and see that we are blessed.”

Kari told me that the KPNR original, “Pray Now,” was similar to an anthem song while her dad was fighting through cancer. The rest of the country also fell in love with the song. It reached the No. 1 position on the Singing News Magazine charts for the month of October in 2015. The album, “Pray Now,” won Southern Gospel Album of the Year at the GMA Dove Awards for 2015.

Thankfully, in July of 2015, Rickey Gooch issued another open letter to KPNR fans.

“Thanks everyone for your prayers,” Rickey wrote. “I have been overwhelmed by your kindness and support. The doctor says that the PET scan looks good and normal, and as far as he is concerned, I am cured.” (

“It was an answer to prayer to find out that he was cancer free,” Kari says.

She says that she “is so grateful,” and will “always continue to pray that the Lord will continue to let him be healthy.”

Most Southern Gospel fans are familiar with the incredible talent of Karen Peck and New River. Karen Peck, Kari’s mom, began her singing career in June of 1980. She is one of the most respected soprano singers in the Southern Gospel industry. Kari said that she has traveled on the road with her mom since she was three weeks old. Karen homeschooled both of her children while on the road, allowing them the opportunity to be with their family instead of having to live with babysitters.

Kari is now doing online studies for her college degree through Liberty University.

Karen Peck Gooch of Karen Peck and New River
Karen Peck Gooch of Karen Peck and New River

Being on the road from infancy to adulthood is not the average lifestyle. I asked Kari what the benefits of road life were, as well as the setbacks.

“Since I was homeschooled, I missed out on going to prom and being a part of sports teams,” Kari shares. “However, I have had the opportunity to travel to different places that I would have missed out on if I had stayed at home.”

In fact, one of Kari’s favorite things about road life is getting to travel to new places, meet new people and eat the best kind of food around.

Kari became a Christian when she was seven years old.

“Growing up, my parents taught me about God and about the importance of following Him,” says Kari. “However, it was my decision to ask Him into my heart to be saved. The older I get, I can more clearly see why it is important for me to have a personal relationship with Him.”

Approximately four years ago, Kari began singing on stage with Karen Peck and New River.

Matthew Gooch of Karen Peck and New River
Matthew Gooch of Karen Peck and New River

“My mom got sick and lost her voice, so my aunt Susan asked me to help her sing,” Kari recalls. “I’ve been singing ever since.”

She now enjoys being on the road full time and singing on stage with her mom, Susan, Matthew, and friend Ricky Braddy.

Kari says that she enjoys road trips, because she, Matthew and Ricky are always joking around and laughing about something. One funny experience happened in Honduras. Kari, Matthew and Ricky had the opportunity to go on a zip-line tour there. Unfortunately, their tour guide was afraid of heights.

“Every time we would go down the line, he would scream like a girl,” Kari explains. “Me, Matthew, and Ricky were laughing our heads off.”

Kari is an inspiration for us all. I had the privilege of seeing Kari while her dad was

Karen Peck and New River Release Powerful Video For New Single “Hope For All Nations”
Karen Peck and New River

fighting cancer, and even then, she had a big smile on her face and was finding something to laugh about. For all of you who are having to watch your father face disease or sickness, please remember that we have hope in Christ. He will be your strength on the hardest of days, and He will always be there to comfort you.

Remember, that even in the dark times, God will provide a testimony when you see no way out. And, for all of you who are mourning the loss of a father, remember that you have a Heavenly Father who has never left you and never will. He stands today with open arms, ready to embrace you at any moment you need Him to. I am thankful for the Father we have in God.

By Fayth Lore

In concert photographs by Craig Harris.

All other images courtesy of Kari Gooch and Karen Peck and New River.

First published by SGNScoops Magazine in June 2017.

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