Billy and Debbie Rader are fairly well-known figures in the community, between their heating and cooling business, B & D Mechanical, the old Hometown Bar Debbie owned downtown, and Billy's guitar playing everywhere from Eagles events to the bowling alley.
"If we don't know you from music, or the bar, or heating and cooling, we know about everybody here in town," Debbie said. "That's a pretty wide net, from old to young. We know everybody."
It's no surprise, in that case, that community members came together this month to help raise money for Billy, who has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for masses in his chest and head.
The Eagles held a benefit for Billy earlier this month, ultimately raising $28,153 to help the Raders. Besides selling north of 200 meals and hosting a successful silent auction, the event was right up Billy's alley; live bands also played, and Billy was, of course, there with his guitar.
"We're so blessed and thankful for the benefit, but to Billy, it was only about playing music," Debbie said. "To him, that's his 'good,' is playing music."
The money raised will help with just about everything, Debbie said, but specifically will help ease the burden of some of the out-of-pocket medical expenses and insurance costs they've accrued so far.
Billy is an Eagles member, Eagles president Steve Liebi said, so to the group, it was an easy decision to do what it could to help out given his many years of playing music at other community benefit events.
The Raders also have made a habit of offering free or drastically reduced price service through their business — Debbie recalled one year around Christmas when she decided that all service calls would be free for a day, and Liebi mentioned Billy's "tremendously low bid" offered for installing heating and cooling at the Eagles' new building space. Billy's "always been that kind of guy," Liebi said.
"It shows how much our members respect Billy and were able to go out and talk to people in the community and find these things that they would donate to auction off," Liebi said. "It takes a lot of effort to put together something like that It just speaks well of the person you're doing it for when people are willing to donate as much as they did."
Regarding Billy's diagnosis this year, Debbie said after noting some concerns, she talked Billy into going to the doctor in late January, when the pair first found out about the masses. A lung biopsy and brain surgery followed, then radiation treatment for his head and further chemotherapy. The mass in Billy's head is now removed, and Debbie said Billy is doing well with his ongoing treatment. The pair continues to travel to and from Columbia a few times each week for treatment.
"He's trying to play a little music still," Debbie said. "Because it's not the best scenario, it's not a good thing going on, (the doctors) say to do what he loves best, and that's play music."
He's in good spirits at the moment despite the challenges, Debbie said.
Debbie said, given the pair's history as "do-gooders," they're used to being the ones giving to others, not taking. She said seeing community members offer them help has been humbling and amazing.
"It's too many people; how do you thank the whole town?" Debbie said. "If I had to write a thank you card to everybody, that's all I'd be doing."
Debbie said at this point, monetary donations to the Raders have been plenty; as far as further help for the pair goes, she said she just wants the thoughts and prayers to keep coming for Billy. Despite his characteristic complaints when the phone rings, Debbie said Billy also enjoys phone calls these days, so friends with Billy's phone number should feel free to call for a chat.
"My philosophy these days is (that) every day is a blessing, and we take it one day at a time," Debbie said. "Because we just don't know what is coming tomorrow."