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VOL. 127 | NO. 27 | Thursday, February 9, 2012

RMHC Radiothon Helps ‘House That Love Built’

By Aisling Maki

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The 21st annual Ronald McDonald House Radiothon is in full swing over at the facility, which serves as a home away from home for patients undergoing treatment at nearby St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The Radiothon began Thursday, Feb. 9, with Rock 103 (102.7 FM) disc jockeys broadcasting live from the “House that love built,” in the company of the children and families it serves.

“People are more than welcome to drop by, drop off donations and check out the house,” said Ronald McDonald House Charities communications coordinator Brittany Fitzpatrick. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, and with it being at the house, they’ll see the families and really get a sense of why we hold the Radiothon.”

The live broadcast will continue through 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, and donations will still be accepted through the weekend by calling 800-230-KIDS (5437) or visiting www.rmhc-memphis.org.

A number of celebrity guests are scheduled to show their support by calling in to the Radiothon. They include University of Memphis men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner; Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins; Baltimore Ravens player and Memphis native Michael Oher; Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.; Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell; Mid-Southerner and Cleveland Browns player Brandon Jackson; and Memphis rapper Lil’ P-Nut.

Since its inception, the Radiothon has raised $7 million for Ronald Mc Donald House Charities of Memphis, an independent, community-supported nonprofit organization.

“I think the Radiothon raises awareness that we’re our own 501(c)3 and that we have to raise our own funds,” Fitzpatrick said.

Ronald McDonald House of Memphis has housed 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, the Memphis hospital that provides treatment to children afflicted by cancer or other catastrophic illnesses, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

“It’s not just a place to lay your head at night; it really is a home away from home,” Fitzpatrick said. “We provide kitchens where families can cook meals together. There’s a game room and toys, and volunteers come and do arts and crafts. That comfort makes a huge difference. We don’t provide the medical services, but the emotional and spiritual support is certainly beneficial in the healing process. A lot of the families say it feels like a community of support.”

Most Ronald McDonald House facilities require families to pay a nominal fee, but families stay entirely free of charge at RMHC of Memphis. 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 $2.4 million operating budget, which includes everything from security to entertainment to stocking the pantries, is made possible through support from the Memphis community.

“The Radiothon is our signature event because it’s as old as the house,” Fitzpatrick said. “The money raised from the Radiothon is key to allowing us to operate at no cost to our families. The donors are very special to us because they’ve been supporting us for over 20 years.”

One of RMHC of Memphis’ most passionate supporters was late radio personality John “Bad Dog” McCormack, who helped found the Radiothon.

This year’s Radiothon will honor the legacy of McCormack, who died of leukemia last March, just one month after hosting his final Radiothon from a hospital bed.

“He was just a champion for our families, and I think with him going through his own battle with leukemia, he understood almost better than anyone what these families and kids go through,” Fitzpatrick said. “Although he’s not here with us physically, I can definitely tell you that his spirit is very much still in the house, and we’re all very excited to honor him and keep the foundation that he helped build going through the Radiothon.”

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