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VOL. 127 | NO. 161 | Friday, August 17, 2012

Airwaves Charity

Changes in store for Ronald McDonald House’s annual radiothon

By Aisling Maki

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Members of the media joined the children of Ronald McDonald House of Memphis Wednesday, Aug. 15, for an outdoors tricycle race on the nonprofit’s campus at 535 Alabama Ave.

Patients from the Ronald McDonald House take off from the start line as they race against local media members during a Radiothon launch event on Wednesday. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

Veteran Memphis radio anchor Bev Hart, Fox 13 weekend sports anchor Marcus Hunter, and social media maven Kerry Crawford of the I Love Memphis Blog were among the participants in the Tour de RMH, part of a celebration to kick off the Ronald McDonald House Radiothon.

For 21 years, the annual fundraiser was broadcast for two days each February on Rock 103, with disc jockeys broadcasting live from the “House that love built.”

But for the first time this year, the Ronald McDonald House Radiothon will be simultaneously broadcast Nov. 1-3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Cumulus Media Memphis sister stations 98.1 The Max and News Talk FM 98.9.

Hart, an original member of Rock 103’s Wake Up Crew, co-founded the radiothon, along with late radio personality and ardent Ronald McDonald House supporter John “Bad Dog” McCormick.

Jordan Proctor leads a tour through the Ronald McDonald House as part of a Radiothon launch event on Wednesday. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

With Hart now hosting “Talk Memphis” on 98.9 FM, and former Wake Up Crew producer Chris Jarman employed by sister station 98.1, re-launching the radiothon on Cumulus just seemed to make sense.

“We talked about carrying on the legacy that we’d begun with the Ronald McDonald House Radiothon from years past, and we just wanted to continue our support and continue that legacy,” Hart said.

Danni Bruns, program director at 98.1 and 98.9 FM, calls Hart the radiothon’s “ambassador.”

“Her being with Cumulus now is the main reason we can move forward with this,” Bruns said. “She’s the only original (Wake Up Crew) member left, so it was a no-brainer for us to pick this up and have the privilege to carry on this tradition.”

Caron Byrd, executive director of Ronald Mc Donald House Charities (RMHC) of Memphis said the staff is excited about the new partnership with Cumulus and the opportunity to get the nonprofit’s message out to the community through two stations over a three-day broadcast period.

“It will be different because the stations are different, but what will be the same is our mission – raising the funds to help these kids have a home to stay in when they come to Memphis,” Byrd said.

Ronald McDonald House of Memphis has served as a home-away-from-home for about 6,000 families since it opened its doors in 1991. They’ve come from every state and at least 45 countries seeking treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Memphis hospital that provides treatment to children afflicted by cancer or other catastrophic illnesses, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

Although affiliated with more than 300 Ronald McDonald House facilities around the world, RMHC is an independent, community-supported nonprofit organization.

Most Ronald McDonald House facilities require families to pay a nominal fee, but families stay entirely free of charge at the Memphis facility. The actual cost per night to operate each room is $108, with the average cost per family stay totaling nearly $2,600.

The facility’s annual operating budget of roughly $2.4 million, which includes everything from security to entertainment to stocking the pantries, is made possible through support from the Memphis community.

Last year’s annual radiothon raised more than $270,000 for the facility.

“This house was built by Memphians, it’s supported by Memphians, and we should be so proud of it,” Hart said. “It’s love that makes a home, and this isn’t just a house – it’s a home. These kids need us to continue to provide that, and we need Memphis to help us do that.”

This year’s radiothon’s most significant change will be its physical presence in the community.

In addition to the traditional live broadcast from the House that Love Built, disc jockeys will broadcast live from satellite locations throughout the city, from East Memphis to Downtown.

“There will be an opportunity not only to come to Ronald McDonald House and see what’s going on, but you might be able to stop somewhere and meet a family, talk to one of the DJs, or make a contribution,” Hart said. “The general idea going forward is we’re taking the radiothon out into the community.”

In addition to the Tour de RMH, Wednesday’s festivities offered guests opportunities to tour the facility and meet children and families served by RMHC – an experience Hart recommends for every Memphian.

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