Cindy Bandula-Yates was looking for a way to assist a friend when she came up with a unique idea. “People were doing golf outings and I don’t play golf, so I thought, ‘What can I do?’” she explained. “I love music and house concerts were just becoming a thing and I thought, ‘I’ll do a house concert!’”
It was 2004 when Bandula-Yates’ husband, Ted, had lost his best friend, Mike Fatigante, to pancreatic cancer. The couple wanted to help his widow and three children with their expenses. The house concert became the perfect venue—so perfect, in fact, that the Wexford couple will host their 19th concert on August 20.
“We thought it would only be one year, but people had so much fun that first year that they asked us to do it again,” said Bandula-Yates.
The first year, she enlisted the assistance of Cindy Bullens, a musician who had lost her own 11-year-old daughter to cancer. And thus, the name.
“Just for kicks, because we were both named ‘Cindy,’ we thought it would be fun to call it ‘Cindystock,’” Bandula-Yates said. The name stuck. Robert McEntee, Dan Fogelberg’s guitarist, and local musician Ted Aikens, also performed. Aikens and Ted Yates were both teachers at the Moon Area School District with Fatigante.
Yates’ home has provided an ideal location for the concerts. With a couple of acres and their deck situated lower than their sloping backyard, Bandula-Yates said that it is a natural amphitheater. Their neighbors graciously get into the act every year, roping off their yards for parking as the concert has grown from attendance of about 50 to now over 250.
The funds raised have also grown exponentially. “In the first five years, we raised $10,000, but overall, we have raised $393,000, so we learned how to do the fundraising part a lot better,” Bandula-Yates said.
In addition to attendance fees, they now have sponsors, seek donations for food and beverages, and host a silent auction and raffle. The musicians are always paid, and Bandula-Yates works with them well in advance to accommodate their schedules.
After the first couple of years, Fatigante’s family suggested that they assist others, and by then, Bandula-Yates had found someone else fighting cancer and needing support, so the concerts went on. Today, Bandula-Yates works with local agencies who offer free cancer screenings and support services. This year’s concert proceeds will benefit Allegheny Health Network, Adagio Health, UPCI Colon Cancer Outreach, Cancer Bridges and Hair Peace Charities.
Realizing that the need for funding was endless, in 2019, Bandula-Yates formed a nonprofit. “I realized that there was a whole set of people out there who needed help, so I researched the area and found organizations who wouldn’t let people fall through the cracks,” she said.
Rebecca Whitlinger, associate director, Cancer Bridges, has been attending Cindystock for years. ”Cindy and Ted are unstoppable. From recruiting musicians, building a stage, acquiring dozens of auction prizes, plus feeding a couple hundred people and transforming their backyard into a concert venue, they never miss a beat. They are so committed to the mission that they produced two virtual concerts during COVID because they understood that local charities were counting on their unwavering support,” she said.
In 2020, Cindystock was a virtual concert because of the pandemic. “It was perfect because we were able to have performers who wouldn’t normally be able to come here to perform,” said Bandula-Yates of the concert that featured a duo from England. The virtual concert was so successful that they hosted a virtual 18.5 Cindystock concert this past February.
Although it has been years since the original concert, Mike Fatigante is still honored with his photo predominately displayed, and his family still attends. “Last year his son came with his own children,” Bandula-Yates said.
Three years ago, Ted, an avid cyclist, had a suggestion for his wife. “He does MS (multiple sclerosis) rides all over the country and said, ‘How about we add a bike ride to the event?’” Bandula-Yates said. The ride is now held the day before the concert, starting at Helicon Brewery in Oakdale and following the Panhandle Trail. Riders can choose from several lengths or just go out and back as far as they want.
Organizing and hosting the concert each year is obviously quite the undertaking. “I have a meltdown every year while I’m shopping in Costco. I ask myself, ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this?’” laughed Bandula-Yates. “Then I see the people that we help at the concerts, and I know it is all worthwhile.”
Lest people think Bandula-Yates does all of the work herself, she credits her husband and volunteers with making it happen. “Cindystock is only possible with the support of Ted and Renee Adams, the event coordinator and all the volunteers who make it run so smoothly,” she said.
Cindystock 19 Hope on Wheels is August 19, 2022, and the Cindystock Concert will be held August 20, 2022. For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://www.cindystock.org.