Community turning out to help DJ
ARTHUR – Marty Benard of Arthur had a DJ service for years, working at weddings, class reunions and family parties. And he donated his time to spin tunes at plenty of benefits too, raising money for causes like muscular dystrophy.
Now it's his turn to be the recipient of good will.
Benard, 53, learned in November that he has three brain tumors and lung cancer, and no sooner did that word get out than friends began asking what they could do.
"Everybody knows Marty," said Cheryl Hall, a longtime friend. "He's just an easy person to get to know, and he's friendly ... and he's helped so many people. I don't know anybody who doesn't like him.
"And so this is our way of helping him."
He was a little reluctant at first to let his friends plan anything, but Hall said they wouldn't take no for an answer.
Because he used to work as a disc jockey for a radio station between Arthur and Sullivan, was a longtime member of a band called Backstage Boogie that played all over the area and into Indiana and DJ'd so much in the area, lots of people know him, Hall said.
When she first began making calls, she contacted people in seven area towns and had a big turnout at the first meeting.
"And it just took off," she said.
The benefit is scheduled from 2 p.m. to midnight Jan. 27 at the Arthur Fire Department on Illinois 133 in Arthur. Plans include a silent auction; a regular auction with donated items; a dinner catered by Terry Warren of Bethany; and two bands, including an appearance by Benard's old band, Backstage Boogie.
"We're estimating 1,000 people coming through the doors," she said. "We have Marty's Party T-shirts and we started with an order of 500, and I just placed another order today."
More than $6,000 has already been received from the sale of the T-shirts, cans placed around town and donations made to an account at the bank, she said.
She said the money raised will help with his medical expenses, although he does have health insurance, and some of the collateral expenses he faces from being so ill. Maybe more importantly, she said, it's to show him that he's loved.
"He has so many friends, and when he's in a situation like this they want to do something to fix it," Hall said. "They can't. But they can at least take the stress (and worry) of the finances away. That's the only thing we can do, so this is to show that support."
Benard said with a lot of pride that he's Arthur born and raised. He studied radio and television broadcasting at Lake Land College after graduating from Arthur High school, worked as a disc jockey for the rural Arthur-Sullivan radio station from 1974 until 1978, and then worked mainly at Schrock Cabinets in Arthur since, except for a few years when he was laid off.
He was employed by Schrocks and in a computer software training session on Nov. 7, 2006, when he noticed that he had lost feeling in his right hand and arm and that the muscles of his hand were contorting it into a monkey's paw. He thought he was having a stroke. He started to get up and collapsed. An ambulance ride and many tests later, he was told of the two brain tumors at each temple and one at the base of his skull, and malignant tumors on both lungs.
"My doctor, he's very upfront and doesn't pull any punches," Marty said, "and he asked me if I had my affairs in order."
He's had aggressive treatments, and the doctors are encouraged by the results. He's started several chemotherapy treatments and faces more. The progress he's made makes him a candidate for laser surgery to have the two brain tumors at his temples removed.
"You know, I thought of my family, my daughter (Aubrey). She'll be 18 this month," he said. "So a lot of stuff goes through your head."
He's leaned a lot on his friendship with Cheryl and her husband, Les Hall. His daughter has been very supportive, he said. And he shares a home in Arthur with his mother, Sara Lou Benard, who hovers close to help him as much as she can.
Hall said the reaction from people in town who want to do something for their friend Marty has been amazing.
"I'm just overwhelmed," Hall said. "This is going to be the biggest this area has ever seen. Arthur's good at having benefits, they do well, but this is going to top it."
She said one week she made 80 phone calls lining up workers for the benefit and people are still coming to her, wanting to help.
"I plan to be there," Bernard said, health permitting. "I'm thankful they're doing it. I had a little bit of a hard time with it at first ..."
"But it's his turn," Hall said.