You have to have some pretty understanding neighbors if you are going to have a backyard concert every year.
Especially if you invite hundreds of guests.
Fortunately for Cindy Yates, she does.
Yates, of will be the host of her eighth annual Cindystock on July 30. The event serves as a fundraiser for cancer research and support, funds administered through her nonprofit organization, Yates Fund for Cancer Hope.
She organized her first concert in 2004 when Yates’ husband, Ted, lost his best friend, Mike Fatigante, 51, to pancreatic cancer. Both men were teachers at the , and the Yateses wanted to do something to help Fatigante's widow, Linda, and her three children.
“We had hosted a couple of golf outings, but I’m not a golfer and I wanted to do something that I could participate in,” said Yates.
A self-proclaimed Dan Fogelberg “groupie,” Yates often attended concerts by the late singer, who died of prostate cancer in 2007. At one of those concerts, she learned that an opening singers had lost a daughter to cancer. Yates started talking with the woman, Cindy Bullens, about “house concerts” -- small concerts by artists who are in an area for larger concerts.
“I asked her if she would be interested in playing for a larger crowd to raise money for a family affected by cancer,” said Yates, and the singer said, “Yes.”
The concert was named “Cindystock,” in honor of the two Cindys and the famous Woodstock concert.
“It was going to be a one-time thing,” said Yates.
The Yates family had a big yard – a little more than three acres – so they decided to have the concert there.
“That way we didn’t have to pay for a place and could raise more money,” said Yates.
Neighbors also had similar yards, so Yateses asked them for help. and Their neighbors graciously opened their yards for parking, and many of them also volunteered for the event.
“We have wonderful, wonderful neighbors,” said Yates.
The first year, about 100 people attended Cindystock, and they raised “a couple of thousand dollars,” said Yates.
It was easy to find people to attend because Fatigante had been a popular teacher and people were eager to help his family, said Yates. While the Yateses didn’t plan to have another concert, people started asking them when they would be holding the next one.
At that point, Fatigante’s widow wanted them to help another family. The second year, funds went to the family of a 40-year-old man who had lost his battle to brain cancer.
Kim Howell, 55, of Stowe, also was a beneficiary of Cindystock, not only financially but in other ways as well. Howell worked with Yates when she discovered a lump in her breast. She had no health insurance, so she asked Yates for help.
“I knew that she had assisted people, so I asked her for help,” said Howell.
Yates not only helped her locate assistance for testing, treatment and health care services but also helped her find the Cancer Caring Center, one of the benefactors of the Cindystock performances.
“They helped me in so many ways,” said Howell, “I didn’t have any income while I was receiving chemo, so they helped me financially, morally and spiritually. The Cancer Caring Center helped me with emotional support.”
Howell now volunteers with Cindystock.
“I have been cancer-free for four years, and I don’t know if I would be here without Cindy.”
The third year, Cindystock began working with UPMC for research and screening.
“A woman that I worked with came up to me and said she had a lump in her breast, but she didn’t have any health insurance. I told her that we would figure out what to do together,” Yate said.
At that point the fund began working with organizations that assist cancer patients and their families through various health services.
“We also decided that we needed to form a nonprofit organization” in 2006, said Yates.
Funds from the 2011 Cindystock will go to Adagio Health, the Obediah Cole Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute colon cancer program, the Cancer Caring Center, The Cancer Project and Satchels of Caring.
“We have designated breast cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer because those are cancers that can be greatly affected by early screening,” she said.
“Cindy is an absolute dynamo," said Rebecca Whitlinger, executive director of the Caring Center. "She dedicates months of her free time to find musicians, secure arrangements and everything else necessary to coordinate this all-day extravaganza.”
Every year, the musicians at Cindystock change to offer returning guests a variety. This year, musical guests will include Yates’ 15-year-old daughter, Maura. Another musician who plans to perform this year is Brooke Annibale, a Moon Township native and one of Mike Fatigante’s students.
“She had Mike as a teacher, so this will be a touching performance,” said Yates.
Over the years, Cindystock has raised more than $40,000. Yates works hard at keeping costs down, and the performers play at much-reduced rates from their usual fees.
This year, in Wexford, in Cranberry and in Wexford are donating food for the event. They also raise money through raffles and a silent auction.
Yates does everything for Cindystock, along with volunteers who include Ted, who is now retired from teaching, and her daughters, Maura and 18-year-old Makiala.
A business consultant with PPG, Yates is busy with her family and career but has no plans to stop organizing Cindystock at this point.
“We have the ability to help people, and I get to do something I enjoy anyways – be involved with music,” she said, “Besides, all of our friends look forward to it. My own family uses it for a family reunion.”
Tickets for Cindystock include a full meal and music by several groups including Annibale, Ellen Bukstel, Maura Yates, Incendio, the Bereznak Brothers and Maura Elyse. Tickets are $35 per person and are tax-deductible. Visit www.cindystock.org for more information.