Once more, with feeling!
As the first snowflakes flutter from the sky, the cavalcade of seasonal events begin anew, offering me the opportunity to re-think, re-do and renew. They say that with each passing year, the time flies more quickly and now that I’m over 40 (LOL) I can see what “they” mean. There are a lot of annual events coming up—holiday parades, tree-lighting ceremonies and bake sales, as menorahs blink to life and visits from old St. Nick abound—but one yearly event stands out for me, slightly above the rest.
Last week the seventh annual Thunder 102 Country Cares for St. Jude Kids Radiothon kicked off its yearly fundraising campaign a little late, having been postponed due to hurricane relief efforts across the country. The 24-hour-long radiothon was inspired by Sullivan County resident Victoria Dunlap, who at the age of 16 decided that she wanted her birthday celebration to be a gift for those in need. Vicky’s selfless act inspired her family and other adults in her life, and with some brainstorming and a hefty assist from our local country radio station (www.thunder102.com), “Country Cares” was born. It begins with the “Boot Cards,” which many of you purchase while checking out at the grocery or making a deposit at the bank. Those cards, strung up on walls across the county, serve as a reminder that “St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.”
Taking my seat alongside General Manager Paul Ciliberto, event co-chair Greg Goldstein and Bold Gold Media movers and shakers Jenn Desrochers and Dawn Ciorciari, I made sure that the dog (yes, she is much better!) had her blanky and a bone, and made my declaration: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Wait a minute,” I said, “is it ‘bumpy ride?’ ‘Bumpy night?’ I’m confused.”
“Who cares?” Goldstein (www.misneragency.com) shot back. “Make yourself useful and start getting pledges.” Picking up my info packet, I scanned the material, refreshing my memory as to why we were there. “Families never receive a bill from St. Jude,” I read, “for treatments, travel, housing, or food, because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.” As my eyes welled with tears, I reminded myself that we would be there for a while (27 hours in total) and that I had better “pace myself” on the emotional roller-coaster.
As guests began to filter into the studio, I marveled at the strength and resilience of our community. Here in the Upper Delaware River region, friends help friends, strangers help strangers, and sometimes, strangers become friends. “You can help right now,” I said to New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, “by becoming a ‘Partner in Hope.’ Got a credit card on you?” Nodding, she asked what I meant. “For $20 a month, one partner will provide a blood transfusion for a St. Jude patient, two partners will provide a day of oxygen, and three partners will provide ‘No More Chemo Parties’ for 10 St. Jude patients. Shall I go on?” I asked.
Handing her card to St. Jude fundraising rep Pam Geiger, Gunther signed up and waved at Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Paty taking her seat at the mic. “Six Partners in Hope will provide a day of chemo for a St. Jude patient, and 14 Partners will help St. Jude host the annual teen prom,” she said, as the phone lines lit up.
Program leader Barbi Neumann Marty ushered some of her students into the studio, announcing on air, “These [Boys and Girls Club] kids are nothing short of amazing!” And that (IMHO) they are. Having sold candy, hosted a car wash or set up donation tables at the supermarket, the “club kids” filtered in during the day, thrilled to make a contribution and pet the Wonder Dog, who passed out River Reporter “Pawtographs” and posed for snapshots throughout the two days.
Now all grown up, Victoria Dunlap (now Vicky Sims) stopped by the studio to re-up her Partner in Hope yearly commitment and cheer us on as the tote board climbed to over $60,000 before the clock ran out. “Treatments invented at St. Jude Children’s Hospital have helped push the overall survivor rate from 20% to more than 80 % since it opened 50 years ago,” I shared with listeners, in a final push for contributions. “Help St. Jude continue its mission. Finding cures. Saving children.” Sadly, childhood cancer affects many of us right here in the Catskills and every dollar really does help. You too, can make a difference. To learn more and make a contribution, visit www.stjude.org.