Recital to benefit cancer research

Barbara MacKay Vinson
Barbara MacKay Vinson

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — After meeting Barbara MacKay Vinson, president of the MacKay Foundation for Cancer Research, Taya Ricker decided she wanted to do something to help the charity, which raises money for cancer research and education on blood and marrow transplant, leukemia and hematology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

So Ricker, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro majoring in violin performance, offered to perform in a recital to benefit the foundation.

“I wanted to play for something that was bigger than me, for some reason that was more than a degree requirement or just a reason to play a concert,” says Ricker, an Asheville native who started playing violin at age 4 and is a graduate of the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. “I wanted to put myself out there and do what I could do to benefit the cause.”

The result will be “Bach, Beethoven and Brubeck,” an evening of classical music and jazz on April 17 at Christ United Methodist Church at 410 N. Holden Rd. in Greensboro.

Featured artists at the event, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is sponsored by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a Bank of America company, will be Ricker and John Salmon, a pianist on the music faculty at UNCG.

Founded in December 2003, the foundation, at, raises money through an annual golf tournament and other events like the recital.

It also raises money through an annual Starlight, Star Bright fundraiser that invites people to make donations in honor or memory of people touched by cancer, with stars in the names of the donors’ friends and loved ones placed on a wall in the Outpatient Cancer Clinic at Wake Forest University.

Vinson has raised over $900,000 since organizing her first golf tournament, which was held May 23, 1994, five months to the day after her husband, Bob MacKay, died of leukemia.

MacKay, who was president of WRE/Colortech and an avid golfer, had been diagnosed with the disease in April 1990.

Having broached the idea of a golf tournament with her husband, Vinson decided the day he died that she would set up a golf tournament “so somebody else doesn’t die.”

Her initial strategy was to seek sponsorships from companies that had done business with her husband’s firm.

The first tournament netted about $25,000.

Last year, the tournament netted $55,000.

The Greensboro-based foundation continues to involve her immediate and extended family, says Vinson, who was trained as a medical assistant and met Bob MacKay when he was a patient at the California hospital where she worked.

Ricker, whose mother gave music lessons to Vinson’s niece, says Vinson always has “been there for me” while she has been at school, and has taken her to the Greensboro Symphony, where she had season tickets.

And Bill Vinson, who is director of procurement at VF Jeanswear and has been married to Barbara MacKay since July 2005, spends a lot of time volunteering for the foundation and has helped it land several corporate tournament sponsors, including VF Jeanswear.

“It is an absolute gift,” she says, “that Bill is very supportive of the foundation and all my volunteer work.”

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