'A treasured tradition:' KSL Radiothon continues to raise money and touch hearts

Published: Tuesday, March 11 2014 3:40 p.m. MDT

The KSL Radiothon raises money every year for the patients and families at Primary Children's Hospital.

KSL

Seated in a wheelchair next to her grandfather, 9-year-old Madison Newbold addressed the room of reporters and radio personalities like a pro.

“What is spina bifida?” someone asked.

“It’s where your back doesn’t work,” said the little girl with purple-rimmed glasses.

“What do you and your grandfather like to do for fun?” another asked.

“We hang out,” Maddie said, flashing a sweet smile. “We do whatever we want, but don’t tell anyone.”

Grandfather and granddaughter exchanged a tender glance.

“Sugar is a staple, one of the four major food groups. She’s a chocoholic,” grandfather Peter Nelson said amid a few chuckles. “I’m known as the grandpa who has very few rules.”

Maddie was sharing her story with KSL Newsradio personalities in preparation for the 38th annual KSL Radiothon for Primary Children’s Hospital on March 13.

Over the course of 20 minutes, the KSL Radio team learned that Maddie’s first visit to Primary Children’s Hospital came when she was only four hours old. She was born with spina bifida and spent the first 10 days of her life in the intensive care unit. She was among the first to undergo a surgery that is now being used around the world to help spina bifida patients with severe curvature problems.

More than nine years, countless check-ups and multiple surgeries later, Primary Children’s has been a second home for Maddie and her family.

“Her mom and I were trying to figure out how many times she has been here, and we lost track at 38,” Nelson said.

Maddie is a classic example of why KSL Radio has continued its annual tradition of organizing a radiothon.

This year’s radiothon included a month-long campaign that concludes March 13 with a live broadcast from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations can be made at Intermountainhealthcare.org or KSL.com.

Since its humble beginnings in the late 1970s, the KSL Radiothon has raised more than $9 million for patients and families at Primary Children’s. In the process, the charitable cause has been a blessing for the community. It's "a treasured tradition," inspired by love and concern, said Sharon Goodrich, director of Primary Children’s Foundation

“We attribute a lot of what Primary Children’s has become, and what it can do for children, to support given by the community,” Goodrich said. “We express gratitude to KSL. It all started with their desire to make a difference in the community.”

A new idea

In the fall of 1976, Goodrich was the public relations director at Primary Children’s Hospital. One day she received a telephone call from Lee Pocock, then the promotion director for KSL Radio. The radio station was interested in finding a way to help raise funds for the hospital long recognized for its charitable policy of never turning away a sick or injured child.

At that time, KSL was a music station, and it had a new concept it wanted to try, Goodrich said.

“Why not do a telethon on the radio and call it a radiothon? If a caller makes a contribution, they get to request a song,” Goodrich said. “There was nothing like it in the country to pattern it after, so they were kind of inventing it as they went along.”

The first event was held in KSL’s lunchroom with at least four rotary dial telephones in 1977. The KSL disc jockeys were not prepared for a large volume of requests and couldn’t keep up, Goodrich said.

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