Husband’s Death from Leukemia Spurs Wife’s Devotion to Fundraising
Barbara MacKay Vinson is modest about her 22 years of fundraising
for the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“You just don’t know the connections of life and how it all snowballs
into something big,’’ she said.
It was the death of her husband, Bob MacKay, to leukemia in
December 1993 that spurred Barbara into action. She said the physicians, nurses
and staff at Wake Forest Baptist who cared for Bob during his 3½-year battle
became like family. And she wanted to give back to that family.
She created the MacKay Foundation for Cancer
Research and, working with her family and volunteers, the nonprofit
organization has raised well over $1 million. The money funds blood and marrow
transplants, leukemia and hematology research, and education. For 20 years, the
foundation’s signature event was the Bob MacKay Memorial Golf Tournament, which
raised as much as $80,000 a year.
The foundation hosts free concerts, at which donations are
accepted. About 250 people turned out in February for “Mozart, Mendelssohn and
Monk—An Evening of Music.’’ The foundation also hosts other events, including dinner-dances and “sports nights.’’ The latter
feature athletes such as former Carolina Panthers receiver Ricky Proehl and
Olympic medalists Joey Cheek and Dan Jansen.
Barbara was honored for her fundraising during this year’s
“Pink Game,’’ the annual Wake Forest University women’s basketball game to
benefit the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Care Center. At halftime,
Barbara received the 2016 Community Hero Award for being an outstanding
Comprehensive Cancer Center supporter.
Barbara’s fundraising has a big impact.
Dr. Bayard Powell, section chief of Hematology and Oncology
for Wake Forest Baptist Health, told those who attended “Mozart, Mendelssohn
and Monk” that research can unlock potential cures to cancer.
“What these funds really do is create pilot projects that
may not otherwise get support,’’ Powell said. “Without seed funds, some
projects would never get started. We greatly appreciate your support.’’
Dr. Dianna Howard, director of Wake Forest Baptist’s blood
and marrow transplant program, likewise said the MacKay Foundation’s
fundraising has made a difference.
“A lot of the money that’s been raised helps research
happen,” she said. “It also helps some of the people doing phenomenal work
travel somewhere and present their information to others.”
No one is more aware of the value of research than Barbara
herself. The leukemia that took her husband’s life is now curable. And one of
the experimental drugs he tried while he was ill is part of the two curing
drugs given to people with his form of leukemia.
“The person who’s diagnosed with cancer, what
they want most of all is to survive,’’ Barbara said. “Bob was willing to take
that experimental drug, and if our foundation can help in any way to find more
cures or help other people, that’s what he would want.”