Monday, August 2, 2010

The Spirit of MACC

As a part of her volunteering at Musicians Against Childhood Cancer, Irene works the gate selling tickets, putting on arm bands, and helping people get into the festival.  On Friday at the Rohr Road gate, she noticed an elderly gentlemen going to the shower.  She began chatting with him.  He talked about being a veteran, having fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II.
"How old are you," she asked
"I'm 83."
"How old were you when you enlisted?" she asked after doing a little counting.
"I was sixteen. We were very poor when I was a child and my mother signed for me to enlist.  I had my pay sent home every month to help my family. I believe in giving back, because you get back in proportion to what you give.  We've been lucky in our lives and we can give back.  A couple of years ago, my neighbor came by the house to chat.  He'd just had a fourth flood, and lost everything.  FEMA had told my neighbor that if he could get three and a half acres of land, FEMA would put a house on it he could pay off with low interest.  My neighbor asked, 'Where am I going to get three acres and a half acres?  We're poor people."  I have 84 acres that my wife and I live on, so I told my neighbor that he had three acres and a half and gave him the land he needed.  We don't need all we've got, and he had nothing at all.  Now his house is almost paid off, and he's watching our pets while we're here at The MACC." The elderly gentleman continued on to the shower trailer.  That's the spirit of Musicians Against Childhood Cancer.

On Saturday it was terribly hot in Columbus.  Temperatures hovered near 100 degrees, the sun blazed down from a clear sky, and only a slight breeze helped to make it all bearable.  Three children found a toad and put it in a cup.  They decided to raise some money to get ice cream by charging people a quarter to see the toad.  After a while, they decided they'd rather give the money to The MACC to help support the cause of defeating childhood cancer.  One of the children at age eight or nine had already had many surgeries to correct some problems. He had a long scar across his back.  Darrel Adkins heard about the three children and brought them to the MACC stage to point them out and tell their story.  Soon afterward, the children were collecting green instead of coin, so much their parents had to hold it for them as they ran about collecting more to give to help defeat childhood cancer.  That's the spirit of The MACC.

Sometimes in this world, people young and old decide there are things bigger and more important than themselves and they determine to help make a difference. Sure, The MACC is a great bluegrass music festival.  The lineup of musicians who donate their time to give performances in memory of Mandy Adkins is among the best to be found anywhere.  The sound, the site, the staff, the leadership and the audience come together to celebrate and remember.  This year was especially poignant, because in addition to contributing in memory of Mandy Adkins, who died ten years ago from brain cancer, Darrel Adkins' mother had passed away on the Saturday before the festival began.  Her funeral was held on Tuesday and then Darrel and Phyllis returned to the Hoover Y Park to finish preparations for The MACC.  Meanwhile, the volunteers remained to make sure that all was running smoothly.  Many people remembered Opal Whitt Adkins, a feisty, funny, and loving woman and joined the family in mourning the loss of "Mommy."  The festival was a huge success, ending with the singing of Dale Pyatt's new song "Life Goes On" by the assembled musicians of the MACC Opry.  That's the spirit of MACC, too.  Life Goes On.

Our five days at MACC, we arrive a day early to help in the final preparations, is one of the major highlights in our bluegrass year.  It's a long drive for, but we wouldn't miss it as long as we can continue.  We're both grateful to Lynn and Brenda Butler for opening the path to MACC for us and to Darrel and Phyllis Adkins for making us welcome and including us in a team, many of whom have been with them for longer than thirty years.  The volunteer staff has been a warm and welcoming group animated by the cause of raising significant funds to help support a dedicated laboratory at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  It's a delight, also, to attend an event where the leadership establishes a set of standards and then maintains that standard.  The animating ethic governing behavior at MACC is consideration for others.  That means that you may hear bands not to your taste, but there's sure to be plenty right in your wheel house.  If you don't like the band on the stage, take a walk, eat something, go to your rig to take a rest, and be assured that the next band will be more to your liking.  Consideration means smoking away from the performance area to assure your secondary smoke doesn't discomfort others.  It also means that it's OK to bring coolers and enjoy an adult beverage, but drunkenness is out and people behaving inappropriately will be ejected from the site.  It's pretty easy to observe principles like this and remarkable that such a large a crowd is so cooperative in seeing that each individual not only has a good time, but participates in assuring that others do also.

We've heard comments from some people expressing concern that somehow the Adkins family benefits from the funds flowing through this festival.  People attending or donating to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital can rest assured that beyond meeting the expenses of the event, all the money generated by the MACC goes to either St. Jude or the YMCA.  Darrel Adkins is a talented fund raiser, never missing a chance to find ways to raise money for the specific research laboratory, devoted to brain cancer, supported by The MACC.  This means that every dollar going to St. Jude supports research and does not flow into the hospital's general fund.  The new stage, a huge improvement to the site, for instance, was built largely with donated materials and volunteer help.  Darrel's network of volunteers and sponsors is well connected in the Columbus area and able to find willing contributers to this important cause.

Next year's Musicians Against Childhood Cancer will take place from July 20 - July 23, 2011.  Mark it down on your calendar now and plan to attend.  Meanwhile, if you wish to contribute to St. Jude and the YMCA through Musicians Against Childhood Cancer, send contributions to:

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer
1434 S. 3 B's and K Rd.
Galena, OH 43021
Please consider making a tax deductible gift and be sure to come out next year to participate in one of the great events in music.