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Mount Airy holds concert for a cancer organization

Mount Airy's forthcoming country, western and bluegrass festival is about much more than the music, said organizer Randy Anderson.

The festival's proceeds will benefit creativity in cancer research through the International Cancer Alliance for Research and Education, Anderson said. Like many Americans, Anderson and his wife have had a long history of cancer in their family.

Anderson's wife lost both her mother and father to different types of cancer. When the two opened a coffee shop in Damascus called the Music Cafe, they met Dr. David Hankins, a chairman of ICARE and leukemia researcher, and began learning more about cancer advocacy from a scientist's perspective.

"It's really a hands-on cancer organization that's just incredible," Anderson said.

ICARE was begun by a group of scientists 25 years ago who were dissatisfied by the length of time it took to bring a new idea into the marketplace, Hankins said.

"You have to get a pharmaceutical company interested in anything you do to put up the $5-$6 million to put a new drug through the FDA," Hankins said.

The Bethesda-based organization has several missions, Hankins said. It advocates for patients and gives them both safe options and possibilities for clinical trials, as well as gives researchers grants to push their research along. Hankins calls the money "freedom of pursuit" funds in order to find the next great cure. Anderson connected with ICARE because the group is primarily focused on funding research as opposed to raising awareness.

"It seems like there's all [these people] chasing money for awareness," Anderson said.

Hankins said his hope for the organization's future is to give scientists funding, but also to be an advocate for patients.

"If your neighbor gets cancer then we hope we'll be ready to give them the best information in the world to deal with their cancer right now, and then six months from now, and then a year from now, and then 40 years from now," Hankins said. "We want to be the AAA Automobile Club of cancer to help you prepare a pathway on the road to recovery."

The newest initiative is uniting two kinds of artists - the musicians who will be onstage at the Mount Airy Country, Western and Bluegrass Festival and the scientists around the world who are encumbered by the process it takes to get a cure to the market, Hankins said.

The concert will feature five bands, known both locally and nationally, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mount Airy volunteer fire company's carnival grounds. Ashley Marie, Jack Bond Trio, Geiger & Hannan, Lydia Sylvia & Company, The Southern Drifters and The Hardin Draw will be playing throughout the day.

Pony rides, a hot air balloon display, a moon bounce, face painting and games will be scattered around the fair grounds. Adults can take advantage of the Flying Dog sponsored beer garden, and the many artisans at the festival with booths selling their wares.

"This is probably going to be one of the biggest events Mount Airy's seen," Anderson said.

Anderson, his wife and a few others put the festival together in just three months, he said. Hankins said they are expecting a few thousand people at the festival. Aside from overhead costs, all of proceeds of the festival will go toward ICARE, Hankins said.

Hankins works with high school groups and rotary clubs around the area to connect people to his organization. This concert is just one way to continue spreading awareness about what ICARE does. With his high school students, he said their response is immediate.

"They can say because I care, I can help," Hankins said.

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