July 12, 2013 10:18:08 AM
In the South, helping others is a way of life.
Saturday, friends of local artist Chris McDill are continuing that tradition by hosting a concert to benefit the Columbus native who is being treated for a brain tumor.
The benefit concert will begin at 8 p.m. at the Princess Theater in downtown Columbus. Although there is no admission charge, benefit organizers are asking for $5 donations at the door. Raffle tickets for various prizes will also be available for $5 each. All proceeds will benefit the McDills.
The McDills weren't initially alarmed when Chris began to have difficulty speaking a few weeks ago.
"He wasn't feeling like himself," said his wife, Katie McDill. "He was having problems getting his words out and that's not like Chris at all. We thought it was just exhaustion because he would feel better within 10 minutes. He would go rest and feel fine."
After two episodes in three days, Katie insisted her husband go to the hospital. There, the McDills heard the words that would change their life. Doctors discovered a golf ball-sized tumor on the left side of his brain.
"We did a CT scan and they immediately came out and said, 'You have a mass on your brain.'"
Not only did Chris have a large mass, the area around the mass was inflamed.
"We came home and packed a bag that night," Katie said.
For the McDills, the shock of the diagnosis took a while to register.
"You go in for something that you think is heat exhaustion and you find out you have a mass on your brain. You're kind of taken back," Katie said.
The next morning, Chris was being prepped for the operating room at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Last Wednesday, McDill underwent a five-and-a-half-hour operation to remove the mass.
Since the mass was on the left side of his brain, Katie said doctors were concerned about how her husband's speech would be affected after the surgery. Thankfully, Chris' speech was not impaired at all, Katie said.
"Right when he woke up from surgery, he was hollering for me," she said.
Although the surgery was successful, McDill and his wife Katie are still waiting to learn if the mass was benign or malignant.
While they wait, their friends and family are rallying around them. From cleaning their house to cutting their grass, Katie said the outpouring of love and support has been amazing.
"We've heard from friends of friends of friends, people we haven't talked to since high school," she said. "We feel so blessed to have such a good support team behind us. It's so nice to know that people are there -- whatever we need, they are there to help us."
Ryan Munson and his wife, Katherine, have helped organize Saturday night's benefit. The couple has been friends with the McDills for years and said they, too, were overwhelmed with the number of people asking how they could help.
"People are coming out of the woodwork," Ryan Munson said. "We just started getting random text messages from people I didn't even know asking how they could help. It's been amazing, a real testimony to what type of people he and Katie both are."
With such an influx of people asking to help, the Munsons decided to host a benefit concert.
"It was just kind of an idea, let's do something and put these people who want to help to work," Ryan Munson said.
Munson snagged Memphis talent Star and Micey, an indie folk band, to headline the event as well as local talent Alex Warble. Ming Donkey will be performing as well.
Ryan Munson said Chris McDill is a "genuine guy" who has always had a heart for helping others.
"He's really built relationships with just about everybody in this town. He's a real genuine guy. You can see that," he said.
Katherine Munson said the McDills have always been wiling to help her and the community. Hosting a benefit was her way of giving back to them.
"Both Chris and Katie McDill have showed me throughout the years the power and dynamism in hard work, dedication and true love. True love isn't just about words, it's about action. I feel honored to be able to host this benefit for them and 'show' my love for them," she said.
Ryan Munson sees the concert as a way for the community to give back to a man who has always given so much.
"We don't know, honestly, until his biopsy comes out, when he's going to be out of the woods and when this will all be put behind them."
To make donations
A bank account has been set up at all BankFirst locations where people can donate directly to the McDills. Updates about Chris McDill's recovery and the concert can be seen on a Facebook page named 'Chris McDill benefit concert with Star and Micey.'
In addition to Saturday night's concert, those interested in helping the McDills can purchase local art from the Columbus Arts Council. As with the concert, all proceeds benefit the McDills.
Katie McDill said throughout this experience she has seen what a strong and loving community Columbus is.
"You take things for granted then something like this happens out of the blue. We're so taken back by the amount of love our family and friends have shown us. We feel very fortunate."
For more information on the benefit concert, call 662-574-7085.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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