Gary Sinise Foundation
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In Honor & Memory of McCanna Anthony
“Mac” Sinise

1990 - 2024
Mac Sinise outside in a nature.

On February 27, 2017, our son Mac joined the team at Gary Sinise Foundation as our Assistant Manager of Education & Outreach. I was thrilled and excited to have him come on board to help me with the mission. His job duties included handling and digitizing our Gary Sinise Foundation archive and managing our Education & Outreach Center, which included hosting events, giving tours, stewarding donors, and outreach with the military service members, veterans, first responders and families who were recipients of our support. With his engaging and upbeat personality, he inspired folks through our Gary Sinise: A Call-to-Action exhibit in the Education & Outreach Center, and he assisted in everyday activities, and local and national events also. As a father, having him as part of the Foundation was a gift. He was a great representative who cared about the mission and those we serve, and I was eager to watch him grow with the organization.

Mac holding a poster of his father's book cover, Grateful American, A Journey From Self to Service

I was always happy to have him join me on the road, and I could see how much joy and pride he shared in our mission. Especially when he could be hands-on with those we serve, like at our Soaring Valor events honoring our nation's WWII heroes, and our Invincible Spirit Festivals, where we bring the Lt. Dan Band to uplift our wounded at military hospitals across the country.

Mac with his father, Gary, posed in front of a bus at a GSF Event.

Mac had been playing drums since he was nine years old and was an exceptional drummer. He would substitute for my drummer, Danny Gottlieb, when Danny was unavailable to play our Lt. Dan Band shows. Those were some great times, father and son rockin' out together for the troops.

Mac with his father performing with the Lt. Dan Band.

The summer of 2018 was a particularly challenging time for our family. In June of that year, my wife Moira was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and after surgery to remove lymph nodes, she began chemotherapy and radiation. Then, on August 8th, we found out that Mac was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called Chordoma. What was happening? What is Chordoma? I had never heard of this. And two cancer patients, mother and son, within two months of each other? A real punch in the gut. I went online to see what I could find. Chordoma is a one in a million cancer. Originating in the spine, Chordoma affects, on average, only 300 people in the U.S. per year. In 70% of the cases the initial tumor can be removed, and it is cured. But in 30% of the cases, perhaps about 90 people per year, the cancer returns.

Thankfully, after months of treatment, Moira went into remission and has been cancer-free ever since. With Mac, after surgery to remove the initial tumor in September of 2018, and another spine procedure in February 2019 to clear what looked like an infection, unfortunately a follow up scan in May of 2019 would show that his Chordoma had come back and was spreading. This began a long battle that disabled him more and more as time went on. The cancer fight was getting harder, but throughout most of 2019 he was still able to come to the GSF office, until a third spine surgery in November of that year.

Mac with his father in their yard.

While in recovery at home, he was still eager to contribute to the Foundation and he was excited to launch our Gary Sinise Foundation podcast. He was just getting started, completing two interviews, the first with our Gary Sinise Foundation video producer Kip Perry, and the second with yours truly. In January of 2020, the day before he went in for his 4th spine surgery, Mac and I sat down together for his GSF podcast interview with me. This would finish his work with Gary Sinise Foundation. That year, he knew he had to step away to fight his battle. He would have to focus full-time on recovery and rehab, as there would be a fifth spine surgery in June, along with radiation and continuing chemotherapy.

With Chordoma being such a rare form of cancer, there are very few medical centers doing research. During our long and challenging fight, we were blessed to have the support of the Chordoma Foundation. They are the only organization whose sole mission, 24/7, is to find a cure for this rare orphan cancer and beat Chordoma. In 2021, we created this “Team Mac” page so that friends and family asking how they could help support Mac could do so through encouraging messages, and by helping to raise funds for much-needed research to find treatments for Chordoma.

Mac's promotional photo his Chordoma Foundation fundraiser.

Mac was a graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music. While in school, he continued his drumming and studied songwriting and composition. Now, due to his disability, as he could no longer play drums or piano, he had assumed that music was a thing of the past. But in early 2023, he started thinking about working on a piece of music called “Arctic Circles” that he had written in college but never finished. He asked me if I thought our pal Dan Myers, violinist and singer for my Lt. Dan Band, would help him work on it. I suggested he contact Dan. He did, and they started texting ideas back and forth, Mac working on the piece from his hospital bed at home or in his wheelchair. The cancer had paralyzed him from the chest down, but he still had limited use of his right arm, and fingers on his left hand. Being right-handed, he would strap a stylus to his right hand, and he could punch letters and notes into his phone or iPad. He also had a small keyboard he laid on his hospital bed table that he used to work on his music. In April of 2023, Dan recommended reaching out to our longtime friend and fellow bandmate, pianist Ben Lewis. Mac sent a chart of “Arctic Circles” to Ben, and they went back and forth shaping Mac's vision for the piece, with Ben recording piano versions of the composition and sending them to Mac for notes. Mac's name for “Arctic Circles” was inspired by the wintery nature shows he loved watching while lying in his hospital bed.

He had recently reconnected with an old friend from college, composer and arranger Oliver Schnee.

Mac with his friend Oliver during a visit to his house.

In June, Mac sent Oliver a scratch piano track of “Arctic Circles” that Ben had recorded. Oliver loved it. Mac asked if he would help him finish it and they went to work. With notes going back and forth and a lot of fine tuning, Oliver finished a stunningly beautiful arrangement.

Mac picked a date to record when he knew his sister Sophie was going to be in town. The session was scheduled for July 17, 2023, at the very famous Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. He financed the session with his own money, and Oliver and his father, legendary recording engineer and producer Bill Schnee, hired the contractor who pulled together some of the top studio musicians in Los Angeles. Bill lent his services on the mixing board. (Thank you, Bill).

Oliver and his father, Bill, running the soundboard during a recording session.

With music so deep in his heart, unable to play drums now, Mac's mother Moira suggested he get a harmonica, which he did, and he started teaching himself how to play. I have a dear friend, Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis, who plays harmonica and tells a story of learning to play “Shenandoah” while in the jungles of Vietnam. I gave Mac a video of Sammy playing it, suggesting that Mac learn it. He did, and it was beautiful. Listening to him playing it, I suggested that he ask Oliver to do a string arrangement to back him up. As long as they would have the strings at the session for “Arctic Circles,” why not do “Shenandoah” also?

Mac playing the harmonica in front of the studio orchestra during a recording session.

Both these pieces of music began a collaboration that expanded to a vision Mac had of doing an entire album of music entitled Resurrection & Revival, with a theme of bringing something that was old or unfinished back to life. Mac had three more originals and with more notes going back and forth between Oliver and Mac as they crafted the arrangements, they were now ready to go back into the studio. Two more sessions were scheduled for November 5th and 10th of 2023, this time in Nashville, to record the original pieces that Mac had written, and a group of songs that were special to him, featuring him on harmonica with members of the Lt. Dan Band. During our November 10th session at the legendary Blackbird Studio, Mac celebrated his 33rd birthday. He especially wanted to share it with my band. It was a very special day for him, and he asked me to play bass on one of the tunes, a cover of the old American folk song “Red River Valley,” with him playing harmonica. It is a song his mother used to sing to him and his sisters when they were little. That day was indeed a special day for the two of us.

Mac with his father and the Lt. Dan Band celebrating his 33rd birthday.

The week the album went to press, Mac lost his battle with cancer. He died on January 5, 2024 at 3:25pm, and was laid to rest on January 23rd.

Like any family experiencing such a loss, we are heartbroken and have been managing as best we can. As parents, it is so difficult losing a child. My heart goes out to all who have suffered a similar loss, and to anyone who has lost a loved one. We've all experienced it in some way. Over the years I have met so many families of our fallen heroes. It's heartbreaking, and it's just damn hard. Our family's cancer fight lasted for 5 ½ years, and it became more and more challenging as time went on. While our hearts ache at missing him, we are comforted in knowing that Mac is no longer struggling, and inspired and moved by how he managed it. He fought an uphill battle against a cancer that has no cure, but he never quit trying. Mac loved movies, and we always told him he reminded us of the soldier at the end of the extraordinary film 1917, running through the battlefield, bombs going off all around him, knocking him down one after the other, yet he keeps getting back up, refusing to quit and keeps running forward.

I am so blessed, fortunate, and proud to be his dad.

I had not spoken publicly about Mac's challenging fight until this recent interview with Raymond Arroyo, done live on December 29, 2023. But in the interview, while I mention his health challenges, leaving out the details, you will see the focus is on Mac and his inspirational music, all put together during those final months of his life, as he was always focusing on what he could do, and never on what he couldn't. Mac was living out a dream, bringing it to reality with his collaborating partner, Oliver. It was incredibly motivating and therapeutic for him, and he was so excited to see it all come together. I did this interview live in a satellite truck they had sent to the house. While I was sitting in the truck doing the interview in the driveway, Mac and Moira were inside the house watching. When I was finished, I walked into the house and Mac was just beaming. Smiling ear to ear, so happy to see his music being featured on national television.

Mac with his father and Oliver in the recording studio.

His music videos can be seen in their entirety on Mac Sinise YouTube. Included with the video of “Arctic Circles” is a special text message from Mac that I found on his phone after his death. He intended to post it as he was so happy to share this piece of music with you all.

The album, Mac Sinise: Resurrection and Revival, will be finished and available soon. If you would like to pre-order the album, click here.

Cover art for “Resurrection & Revival”, Mac's forthcoming album.

On December 30, the day after I did the interview with Raymond, we had to take Mac to the emergency room for what would be his final trip to the hospital. He was having trouble getting his breath and after stabilizing him, he was admitted. I stayed with him as I had done many times before. During the first few days, I thought this would be another trip where we get things under control and head home. He was showing the interview to hospital staff on his phone and was so happy when they would go to his YouTube Channel to see the music videos. He was smiling and filled with joy when he would hear them sharing how moved they were by the music. But the days got tougher, and on January 5th, with the family all around him, he let go. His battle with Chordoma was over and he was at peace.

Our story is not unique. No one escapes cancer. It affects us all, as every one of us in this life knows someone, personally or otherwise, who has faced this awful disease. And that summer of 2018, being hit with two different cancers at the same time, was not easy. But over the years, through my mission to support our troops and families, I have met the most extraordinary people who have persevered and overcome the most difficult heartbreaking circumstances, and I have learned from them and been inspired by them. Knowing them gave me strength. Perhaps it was God's way of preparing me to meet our own difficult fight, having met and watched so many courageous families confronting what life had thrown at them.

Mac with his sisters, Ella and Sophie. And Mac with his mother, Moira.

In sharing our story, we hope to shine a little bit of light on what has been a difficult time for us as Mac was truly a light for all of us. An incredible inspiration to those who knew and loved him, he faced his battle with grace, courage, and love. Even with one setback after another, he never stopped living and learning, creating, and giving, and loving. He loved all our family. His wonderful sisters, Sophie and Ella and their children, and while I worked hard to manage the day-to-day medical care, his beautiful mother Moira was his constant companion. He loved her so. His grandmother, his aunts and uncles, his cousins, his brothers in law, his caregivers Lulu and Mimi. There are so many friends he loved and who loved him.

And Mac loved working at the Foundation, and he loved and appreciated his colleagues there, as they have continued the mission each day, helping to carry the load so I could focus on these family challenges.

Our family is grateful for all those who have helped us, loved us, and supported us in this fight.

Mac was a man who loved his Catholic faith, and there is no doubt that his strong faith sustained him through the awful 5 ½ year battle with this crippling Chordoma cancer.

“You have made us for yourself oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Mac's favorite quote from St. Augustine.

He gave his family and friends so much during his 33 years, and he accomplished great things in those final months. With a glorious teaming of two old pals from college, his vision for this beautiful music was realized.

Mac's inspiring parting gift to us.

Thank you, Mac. You did it. Resurrection & Revival will live on. And so will you. In our hearts forever.

We were blessed to have you in our lives as son, brother, and friend...and we will miss you and love you for eternity.

-Gary Sinise
Proud father of Mac Sinise

Gary hugging Mac during the recording session.

From GSF: In Lieu of Gifts or Flowers

At this time, Gary and the family have not asked for anything. They shared that all the kind words and prayers have been incredibly helpful and uplifting. Some folks have taken it upon themselves to contribute to either the Chordoma Foundation or the Gary Sinise Foundation. We make sure to update the Sinise family about donations received in honor of Mac. They are so grateful for your prayers and support.

Mac was an inspiration to all of us here at the Gary Sinise Foundation. We are heartbroken and grieving the loss of such an incredible individual, colleague, and friend.

Messages from Mac's GSF Family

  • Working alongside my brother-in-law and serving in his family's beautiful mission has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. Mac had a passion to bridge the gap between our nation's defenders and civilian communities, ensuring that Americans know the sacrifices our nation's defenders and their families make to keep us safe. Mac was a man of faith, truly humble, thoughtful and caring. There are no words to describe how missed he will be, but we are forever filled with gratitude for the precious time we had with him.

    Bobby George
    Director of Outreach, Gary Sinise Foundation
  • Mac was truly a special guy. His warrior spirit, commitment to faith, and his family was an inspiration to me. The way he lived his life forever changed mine as a child of God, husband, father, and friend. Thank you for all you blessed us with in your time here, Mac. You live on in each and every one of us.

    Cam Feldman
    First Responder Outreach Manager, Gary Sinise Foundation
  • Mac was a man of incredible compassion, witty humor, and endless empathy. He found his joy and purpose in our mission, in honoring our nation's heroes and their families. Even when he could no longer physically make it to the office, he was always trying to find a way to “do a little more.” I know he continues to serve alongside us, just beyond the veil. I will miss him and our deep conversations about everything till the end of my days. Heaven welcomed one of our very best.

    Cristin Bartter
    Vice President of Marketing, Gary Sinise Foundation
  • We met Mac when he was 11 years old at Epcot in Walt Disney World, when his Dad was narrating the Candlelight Christmas show we perform in. We bonded right away through our passion for percussion. It was a thrill to watch him grow as a musician and person and we supported him as the substitute drummer for the Lt. Dan Band, a task that he fully embraced. We so admired his positive, inspiring spirit even through the devastating illness. We love you Mac and your spirit will live with us forever.

    Danny & Beth Gottlieb
    Percussionists for the Lt. Dan Band
  • Mac was extraordinarily kind and introspective, always deeply pondering something. I rarely had a conversation with him that didn't wander down several paths that encouraged me to take pause, explore a thought, or reflect upon an idea. He thrived doing the work of the Foundation and fueled our mission with new ideas to ensure we were always creating and trying new things. I am incredibly grateful for the time I was able to spend with Mac over the years and was honored to be able to call him a friend. To know Mac was to know one of the best people life has to offer.

    Hannah Luppino
    Senior Director of Events, Gary Sinise Foundation

Write a message to the Sinise Family

We welcome you to contribute to our message wall below. These messages will be shared with the family.

Mac's Message Wall

Tape

What a beautiful tribute to your son Mac. His music is an inspiration to everyone. Mac is an angel now guiding us from the heavens.. Hugs and Prayers.

- S. Vincent
Pennsylvania
Tape

GOD BLESS YOU AND FAMILY, GARY! WE LOST A SON @52 IN 1998 TO CANCER. WE RESPECT YOUR LOSS AND PRAY FOR YOUR COURAGE & FAITH

- C. LUNT
California
Tape

I have no words to adequately express how sorry I am to hear of your son’s passing. That’s so incredibly hard and heartbreaking. Thank you so much for all that you and your family has done and continue to do with your foundation. I will keep your family and the service men and women in my prayers.

- L. Speck
Indiana
Tape

I am just seeing this tragic news. And while I am deeply saddened for Mac's remarkable family and his wonderful friends, I am also touched by the courage and grace of this young man. Some of the shortest lives burn the brightest, and dazzle us. I can't wait to listen to his music.

- C. Craig
California
Tape

Your family is such an inspiration, thank you! I'm sorry for the lost of your beautiful boy. I just saw your interview on EWTN and it gave me courage and fortitude to deal with my much smaller problems in life. Thank you for sharing you great faith..... I'm so proud we share the same faith. ~JMJ~

- L. Jones
California
Tape

You are so loved, Mac. I never met you, but I feel like I have through your father Gary's work and joy whenever he speaks of your family. Your music is so breathtaking and speaks to the soul. And you will continue to inspire generations to come. My prayers are with you and your family.

- J. Dragan
California
Tape

You are so blessed Mac, living in the best Country in the world, with the most loving family. You found the most beautiful juice in the music. You are forever playing your drums in Heaven with the best audience. Gary, my condolences to you and family. I know the pain too. The joy is bigger.

- C. Buerkle
Florida
Tape

I was so struck by Mac and you too Gary, when I happened to turn on EWTN one day. Like most Saints, their work and their "light" will shine one long after he has physically left the earth. You can't stop him in the universe though. See, even a 67 yr old in Tawas Mi has been changed by him. Thank you

- Q. Blackmore
Michigan
Tape

Mac's story, shared by a friend facing her own challenges, brought new hope and courage . . . and above all, JOY to our family and our community of faith. Thank you.

- S. freivald
Virginia
Tape

Just watched the interview on EWTN about Mac. What a beautiful young man. His life is so inspiring. And I have loved Gary's work . Thanks for all you do, Gary. Your wife is so inspiring too. Praying for All of you -- and Mac too. God is now saying to Mac,Well Done, my Good and Faithful Servant.

- j. Hope
Pennsylvania
Tape

Love endures in adversity, it shows prudence in prosperity, it is strong in suffering, it rejoices in good deeds it is safe from temptation, it is generous in hospitality cheerful among true brothers, patient with the faithless St. Augustine

- C. Rice
Connecticut
Tape

I found by chance, and listened to the Raymond Arroyo podcast last night. I did not previously know about Mac. I was extremely touched by Gary's account, and I will pray for your family. I lost my husband to brain cancer but he had a long life first. I want to thank you for all you do for others.

- M. Nauss
Ohio
Tape

Dear Mr. Sinise, I just saw a podcast you did recently where you mentioned your son's fight with cancer. My family and I are very sorry for your loss. We will keep you and your family in our prayers.

- M. Gurrieri
New York
Tape

I am a Retired Indianapolis Firefighter I just wanted thank you for all your foundation are doing.And I am praying for you and your family during Adoration May God watch over you and your family.

- J. Finneran
Indiana
Tape

Dear Gary & Family, I recently saw your interview about Mac’s musical journey a passion you both were able to share. I had the opportunity to experience “Arctic Circles” it is not only beautiful but emotional. My eyes were filled with tears of joy and very moving🙏 Thank you so much for Mac’s story❤

- R. Spicer
Illinois
Tape

Dear Gary and Family, I have just came upon your interview and listened to it all with tears now falling on my face. I want to send my heartfelt condolences 🙏 for your terrible loss of your beautiful son Mac. Sending love and strength to you all, much love Jacinta Coogan, England xxx

- J. Coogan
International
Tape

Gary and Family. Mac has gone to soon in his life. He's been called home to take his seat at the table that our loving Lord our God has set for him. So that he may have everlasting peace and rest. We send our prayers and condolences to you. God Bless you. He walks with you everyday.

- C. Moore-Devine
Pennsylvania
Tape

Dear Gary and family No words can ease the pain of loosing your beautiful son but rest assure God is our peace, and the One that carry us through the valleys. Prayers for strengths, Mac has graduated and his soul lives forever where eternal music plays to God all mighty!!

- B. Durkin
New York
Tape

Dear Gary, Moira & family: I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. You done a special tribute to my WWI vet grandfather. Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. God Bless.

- B. Latham
Ohio
Tape

We are so saddened at this dear son’s passing. I know that everyday for ever will be difficult to live w/out this beatiful, loving and gifted young man. If it does help to know, so many people share in the loss of this beautiful son and young man. Our hearts grieve w/you, Sinese Family!

- L. Shaw
Hawaii