On a rural farm south of Chester where cows are raised, dreams of little ballerinas and poets and artists are raised, too.
On this farm, the legacy of a Winthrop University English professor killed in a 2009 car crash lives on in a foundation that raises and gives away tens of thousands of dollars to students and teachers who hope one day to make a difference as Cynthia Furr did.
The foundation has given away $52,000 in four years and has no plans to stop.
“Cindy’s whole life was about making the dreams of students come true,” said Sharon Furr, Cynthia Furr’s sister and the founder and president of the CindyMackie Foundation. “Helping these people, from little kids to adults, was her dream – and it remains our dream.”
In April 2009, Furr, 45, and her 2-year-old daughter, McAllister, died after a crash on N.C. 49 near the Buster Boyd Bridge. Hunter Holt, 13, of Clover, also was killed in the crash.
Two drivers had been racing at speeds that exceeded 100 mph before the car driven by Tyler Stasko of North Carolina demolished Furr’s vehicle at an intersection where a traffic light was supposed to have been installed years before, but never had been.
Stasko and the other driver, Carlene Atkinson of York, remain in prison after 2012 convictions for the racing and crash that killed Furr, her daughter, and Holt, who was a passenger in Stasko’s car.
In May, a civil jury in Charlotte awarded the Holt family and McAllister’s father $6 million because the developer had failed to put in the traffic light at the intersection.
“We never have to open that book again,” Sharon Furr said of being in courtrooms where the deaths were rehashed over and over again. “We can focus on helping people.”
Cynthia Furr was a favorite among the aspiring teachers she taught at Winthrop. She also had taught high school English and was a music minister at her church after studying piano for years.
All of her accomplishments came from a lifetime of dreaming that she could be a musician, a teacher, a professor. Her father worked as a lineman for the power company, and Furr had to work her way through school.
Through sheer will and hard work, she became a professor, a kickboxer, a skier, and more.
The CindyMackie Foundation, now in its fourth year of granting scholarships and grants, helps people just like Furr who see great things in life are for anyone.
The foundation looks to help people in South Carolina and North Carolina. In addition to the higher education scholarships and grants, the foundation awards a “Mackie” grant each year to a child younger than 18 in honor of McAllister.
One of the requirements is that the child has “a will to attain the unattainable.” Another is that the child must be a dreamer.
“We had one grant winner who was just 9 years old, and we will help people who are adults and still dreaming of doing great things in their lives,” Sharon Furr said. “We have been able to help several teachers. All these people are dreamers just like Cindy.”
The scholarships have helped a variety of aspiring teachers – many at Winthrop, some who were Furr’s students – finish degree programs and post-graduate work. The foundation has helped York Comprehensive High School buy band instruments and even helped pay for a leave of absence for one recipient who needed an organ transplant.
But maybe the greatest gift so far was a 2013 grant to Chester County’s Academy of Teaching & Learning. The library at the elementary charter school was named the “CindyMackie Literacy and Performing Arts Center” this year.
“So many children will be able to learn there, and dream there,” Sharon Furr said. “That is my sister and her daughter – living on through the lives of the people we are able to help.”