Helping cancer patients and remembering friends like Don Bolden and Mike Wilder

Last year at this time I was in the middle of the tough two-month process of saying goodbye to Don Bolden, who would pass away quietly on Aug. 2, 2018 after a battle with cancer that lasted a little less than nine months. Don, the editor emeritus of the Burlington Times-News and the man who first hired me there in 1984, was 85 years old and an important figure not only in the newspaper’s history but that of the Burlington and Alamance County. He was a civic leader involved in almost too many organizations to count, ranging from literacy and faith to veterans issues and higher education. He was the de facto community historian and a perhaps most importantly a nice guy and friend.

So I’ve been thinking about Don lately and probably always will this time of year as I recall visits to the hospital and rehab center following his final relapse. Cancer is a relentless bastard, I think we can all agree on that.

In many ways it’s similar to how I always remember my late friend and newspaper colleague Mike Wilder, who was taken by cancer on April 14, 2013. His battle was a short one and the end came far more quickly than even he might have suspected. He was just 47 and seemingly had so much more ahead to accomplish. That relentless bastard at work again.

After Mike was diagnosed with cancer, the Times-News, where Mike was a longtime and respected reporter and I was then executive editor, wanted to hold a fund-raiser to help Mike with his medical bills and other expenses. We set a date for the summer, thinking that it would be in time to help Mike when he needed it most. He didn’t make it. But we kept the date for the fund-raiser anyway, a concert with proceeds going to the ARMC Foundation’s funds set side to help those battling cancer with paying for basic needs. The newspaper has hosted the concert annually since. The concerts have raised a total of $25,341 since 2013 for the Patricia Bynum Fund and C.R. Byrd Fund to assist Alamance County cancer patients with expenses and incidentals.

The event has historically provided an annual memorial to Mike as well. This year, the concert will also be a memorial to Don and a reminder of all the people we know who have succumbed to cancer. That list includes one of my aunts and my father-in-law.

This year the concert will start at 7 p.m. on Aug. 18 at Harvest Baptist Church, 3741 South Church St., Burlington. It will feature a band that has performed at this concert before — in fact it headlined the most popular one in its history. The Isaacs are an outstanding family of performers with a distinctive sound that owes to multiple genres but largely gospel and bluegrass. They, too, have been touched by cancer and strongly support this cause. They are a nationally known group that often plays at venues such as the Grand Ol’ Opry, so we’re fortunate to have them in Burlington. At the concert in 2016, a crowd of around 900 people attended. The photo below was taken by former Times-News and Freedom Newspapers writer and editor Barry Smith at the 2016 concert. It was among my final events before I left the news business.


Michele Terry, the promotions director for the Times-News, does an outstanding job of putting this annual concert together. She says tickets are available. There are a limited number of VIP tickets at $40 apiece. General admission tickets are $15. Tickets can be purchased at the Times-News office at 707 South Main St., Burlington, by calling 336-506-3071 or online at

It’s a great way to help cancer patients in our community and also to remember two people who had an impact here. Always remember that relentless bastard never sleeps.

You can find more stories about Mike Wilder here.

You can find more stories related to Don Bolden here.


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