Randy Napier is 49 years old and will soon visit New York to stand in the middle of Times Square. Heâ€™ll probably hail a cab for the first time. Soon heâ€™ll go fishing in Key West and go skydiving with his wife. There are road trips to take with his son, and life lessons to teach. Heâ€™s seen the world but wants to see more of it. Life is short after all.
On Sunday, May 31, Napier will host his second annual Randyâ€™s Band Aid at EXPO 5 â€“ a live music event aimed at raising money for cancer patients who are in a time of need. The event will be headlined by the Louisville Crashers and will feature two musical stages featuring a litany of local musical talent. For Napier, who was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal cancer, this might be the last Band Aid heâ€™ll attend. So his focus is on maximizing the amount of money that can be raised, while living life to the fullest.
â€œOn April 16, 2013, I got my first diagnosis for stomach cancer,â€ recalls Napier. â€œWhen I calmed a little bit down, my first inclination was to (travel) with my son, as I had just started dating my wife one month beforehand. Well, after I calmed all the way down, I wanted to do something for cancer patients. Iâ€™m a disabled veteran, so all my treatment is free, but cancer is very expensive for other people.â€
â€œI have many friends who are musicians,â€ explains Napier. â€œMy little brother used to play with Billy Ray Cyrus, I have a buddy who plays with Uncle Kracker, and I have a friend who plays with Montgomery Gentry, so I have access to musicians, and I sing a little bit too.
â€œLast year, the first Band Aid consisted of four bands, and the venue was around 400 people, and we raised $6,000. This year weâ€™re shooting for $20,000 and are planning on 1,200 people turning up. We have the Louisville Crashers, who are headlining. Jefferson Tarc Bus â€“ my little brotherâ€™s band. Kimmet and Doug and Shannon Lawson will play too.â€
One way Napier has found he can also maximize his time and efforts is through meeting his now wife Stacey, who has been a rock by his side.
â€œOur first date was March 15 in 2013, and I was diagnosed exactly one month after that with cancer,â€ recalls Napier. â€œSheâ€™s been with me ever since. Initially, I was pronounced Stage IIB. But this past March, the doctors went in to put a feeding tube, and when they opened me up, they saw that it had returned and said that I am Stage IV terminal. We got married in November of this past year. Sheâ€™s a great woman, has been there for me this whole time, and I probably wouldnâ€™t be here without her.â€
Napier met Stacey through a chance meeting at a concert, and it was through music that he met the other great part of his life: Mike Mulrooney, founder of Shirleyâ€™s Way and very much Napierâ€™s kindred spirit in the realm of fundraising and living life to the fullest.
For Mike Mulrooney, that chance encounter with Napier soon produced an unwavering friendship â€“ one rooted in the ability and drive to help people affected by cancer. Mulrooneyâ€™s journey began when his mother Shirley passed away as a result of cancer,Â and he started the nonprofit Shirleyâ€™s Way, an organization aimed at helping people with the oft forgotten financial burden that fighting cancer brings.
â€œAfter I started Shirleyâ€™s Way, I wanted to do a concert, and I briefly talked to Randyâ€™s brother Dave about it after I saw him on stage,â€ recalls Mulrooney. â€œProbably six weeks after I had had that discussion, a guy named Randy sent me a Facebook message asking me about my charity organization and saying he would love to do a concert event. He swears him and Dave never talked about me, never had the conversation or anything, so itâ€™s weird that we met, but weâ€™ve been best buds ever since.â€
Since its inception, Shirleyâ€™s Way has sought to tackle the issue of cancer as a financial burden. Fighting the disease is one thing, but keeping bill collectors at bay while going through treatment is another, especially when the person afflicted has little insurance to cover the cost. Thatâ€™s why Shirleyâ€™s Way donates money directly to families affected rather than research into the disease.
â€œYeah, I mean I tell people all the time, â€˜Research is fantastic and I hope people continue to research, but thereâ€™s a missing point here in the picture,â€™â€ adds Mulrooney. â€œItâ€™s just missing the fact that people are struggling not only physically but financially because of this disease. I know those (research) organizations are all fantastic; I donâ€™t want to take anything away from them. Itâ€™s just that we have to take care of the people that are fighting. The stress alone of worrying about how people are going to pay their bills will kill them before the cancer will. Some bills need to be paid; Iâ€™m not naive to that point. But when people are so sick they canâ€™t sit up and they get those phone calls, itâ€™s just crazy.â€
The past year has given Mulrooney a chance to tackle those problems with a best friend by his side â€“ Napier â€“ whose legacy and ideas will live on when heâ€™s no longer here. Itâ€™s why Randyâ€™s Band Aidâ€™s website will soon route to Shirleyâ€™s Way, and why Randyâ€™s Band Aid will carry on as an event each year, with Mulrooney envisioning yet another location move to the Waterfront Park someday. Mostly, the time right now is centered on getting as much done as possible in what little time there is left, while cementing a friendship even further.
â€œWeâ€™re like brothers,â€ adds Mulrooney. â€œWe talk every day. We throw ideas around. We talk about what it is we can do to really change things. We were talking last night around 11 oâ€™clock, throwing ideas back and forth. We just both have hearts to try and help people that are fighting this disease.â€
One way Randyâ€™s message will live on is through something Mulrooney hopes to accomplish in the next few months â€“ specifically, that Louisvilleâ€™s City Council will be able to pass a resolution.
â€œIâ€™ve talked to the city about this, I think theyâ€™re going to make the first Sunday of June every year Randyâ€™s Band-Aid day, so the first Sunday in June will be the day that weâ€™ll carry on every year as Randyâ€™s Band-Aid.â€