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The GCS Project’s First Fundraiser: 2017

Many hands and voices helped pay tribute to the late country singer/songwriter Holly Dunn as more than $40,000.00 was raised at a music and memory-filled event held at BMI Nashville on March 30 to support The GCS Project’s gynecologic carcinosarcoma research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

When award-winning Dunn was diagnosed with ovarian carcinosarcoma in March 2016, she wanted to tell her story and make her voice heard about the rare, terminal disease. Unfortunately, Dunn never had the opportunity.  She went on to her next journey just eight months later. She did not want anyone to feel like she felt after receiving her diagnosis: no information, no specific treatment, and no hope.

“We searched and searched for information on carcinosarcoma and only came up with the dire statistics posted on the Web,” said Melissa Taylor, Dunn’s spouse. “Once De Redington, who is also battling gynecologic carcinosarcoma and is the founder of The GCS Project, contacted Holly in August, Holly didn’t feel alone anymore, and we talked at length about what we could do to aid in the research once she felt better.”

At Holly’s November funeral in the small Texas town of Salado, close friends of Dunn’s and Taylor’s suggested that a “small get together” be held for her in Nashville where she was a powerful musical force in the late 1980s-90s. Taylor said she thought she and their closest friends could “find folks who would want to perform in Holly’s honor and perhaps raise funds for research. It’s so important for us to pay attention not only to the major cancers but to the music rights organization in the country, offering its location, food, drinks and support for an evening of live music and a robust silent auction for nearly 300 invitation-only attendees in an atmosphere filled with positive energy and grace.

“BMI senior director David Preston gave us tremendous support along with country stars Tricia Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert and others who had scheduling conflicts and could not attend, but generously aided Holly’s cause,” added Taylor. “Trisha was the secretary for MTM records where Holly wrote, Garth opened for Holly early in her career, and Miranda said she learned to sing by repeatedly playing one of Holly’s most memorable songs, “Daddy’s Hands.”

The fundraiser featured entertainers including Kathy Mattea, Sister Sadie, Bonnie Bishop, Wade Hayes, Lani Nash, Lee Roy Parnell, Anita Cochran, Whitney Layne, Jenna Longmire and, most importantly, Dunn’s songwriter brother, Chris Waters Dunn.

“Holly followed Chris to Nashville, and he co-wrote many of her songs.  He obscure and rare cancers, as well. When we pay attention to the rare, we will find cures for all cancers. We must be the voice for those who do not have a voice anymore.”


The Holly Dunn Celebration and Fundraiser

In January, the event began to take shape with BMI Nashville, the largest gave her extra confidence to make her dreams come true,” Taylor explained. “Kathy Mattea was a contemporary of Holly’s and is an ardent advocate for cancer research. Sister Sadie’s extraordinary fiddle player, Deanie Richardson, joined Holly in her band at age 18. She was instrumental in bringing several members of Holly’s Rio Band back together for this event.”


Consider a Gift in Holly’s Memory to Support Research

Dr. Michael Birrer, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Gynecologic Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, also leads the Gynecologic Cancer Program at Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Center. At the fundraiser, he expressed his research team’s gratitude to The GCS Project, Redington, and Dunn’s generous supporters as 100% of the funds raised were dedicated to The GCS Project.

“The power of this grassroots effort to raise funds critical to our research is truly humbling,” Birrer noted. “We appreciate the attention you are bringing to The GCS Project.”

“We don’t want Holly’s death to be something that just happened,” Taylor said. “She was beloved and worked with so many talented artists. We want to make a difference. We’re talking about planning something similar but different with a larger venue in the future. We hope to ask other artists Holly worked with quite a bit such as Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. Holly performed on Dolly’s television show several times. This can’t be the first and last fundraising event we do. It’s just too important.”

To make a gift in memory of Holly Dunn visit http://giving.massgeneral.org/HollyDunn.

For more information about The GCS Project, visit www.gcsproject.org. 

On Facebook, visit The GCS Project page.