Since the 1980s, Michael Ventimiglia and his band Big Mike and the Booty Papas have been jamming out around Macon.
From Grant's Lounge to the Crazy Bull to headlining the Pan African Festival, they love sharing their music with the community.
Nicole Butler spoke with Big Mike about how the community is now banding together to help get him back on his feet after a recent health scare.
Big Mike and the Booty Papas have been singing the blues for over 20 years.
One of Mike's friends and band members, Phil Palma, says Big Mike lives up to his nickname, a giant at first glance.
"And a lot of people who don't know Mike think, 'You've got to be crazy. That's Big Mike, dude,' and it's like his heart is so tender," Palma says.
Always having a soft spot when it came to giving back to the community.
"He dedicates his life to the blues and helping other people, so when there are benefits that arise, he's like I said, he's burning down a trail to get to it to help people," Palma says.
Playing over 100 benefits over the years, Big Mike says he's never turned one down.
"I just learned, you know, community. It's very important to support the people that you live close by because, I mean, they got your back," Mike says.
And now he's needing that support more than ever.
"See that big chunk they took out of my arm?" Mike says.
Before, this dark spot was in its place, a sign of skin cancer called melanoma.
"It's not as bad as it could be, but any time they say cancer, it makes you think. So you start getting a different appreciation for life," Mike says.
The surgery itself cost him around $7,000, and now there's regular checkups and treatment.
With no insurance, he was running out of options, so friends are holding a benefit to help pay Mike's medical bills.
"It's very humbling. It's, uh, 'Wow.' I never thought the day would come that I would need that," Mike says.
Even though the surgery was a success, he says there's still a long road ahead.
Big Mike says he'll have to get a body scan every three months and a retina scan once a year to make sure the cancer doesn't come back.
He says he never thought he would have cancer and hopes he inspires others to go get checked out.
The benefit is being held on Saturday September 2nd at Ap's Hidden Hideaway on Broadway. It kicks off at 1:30 p.m.
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