The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday January 29th

Column: A special kind of family


Daniel Wilco is a senior writer. He is a senior journalism major from Atlanta, Ga.

Bess Brinkley insists she’s not interesting, that what she did is not worthy of a conversation, much less a column.

Don’t listen to her.

Even though she graduated from South Carolina in 1980, Brinkley has always been a Tar Heel. She’s not really sure why — it was just a fact of life growing up with her family in Shelby. Her mother was a Tar Heel and so was her grandfather, and it didn’t matter that neither of them went to UNC either.

So when she saw the GoFundMe page for Aaron Dodson, a Daily Tar Heel reporter trying to cover UNC’s NCAA run despite DTH budget cuts, the fact that she had never met Dodson was irrelevant. He was asking for $500 for travel expenses, expecting $20 from an alumnus here, $15 from a friend there. Brinkley donated $500.

When I told her how impressed I was, she was taken aback.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said.

Again, I’m inclined to disagree. In fact, her attitude brings to mind a famous Dean Smith quote: “You should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.”

Brinkley points to Smith as one of the central reasons UNC still speaks to her but not the only one.

“Have you ever had that experience where you get on an airplane and someone has a Tar Heel hat on?” she asked. “You just feel like you’re talking to somebody you’ve known all your life. You have the same points of reference, you remember the same stuff, you love the same things.”

There’s something special about the Tar Heel family, she says.

“I don’t think that happens anywhere else. I really don’t.”

And she would know. She’ll still watch the Gamecocks when they’re playing, but she doesn’t care the way she cares for her Tar Heels. So when she saw one of those Tar Heels in need, instinct kicked in.

“My mom and I had some of our greatest times around March Madness,” her post on the GoFundMe page reads. “So in her memory, go realize a dream ... GOHEELS.”

Almost 50 people pitched in a total of $1,875 — enough to send a reporter and a photographer.

But I was still hung up on one point. Why do this for someone she didn’t even know?

Brinkley paused for a second.

“I do know him,” she said. You could almost sense her smiling on the other end of the phone. “He’s a Tar Heel.”


The Daily Tar Heel's 2023 Housing Edition

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive