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

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

The event raised $23,500. The biggest donation came from a listener who wanted to hear Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine. Someone ran over to the Salt Lake City Library and checked out the sketch to secure the pledge.

“It was odd, a lot of commotion, but it was a lot of fun,” Goodrich said. “We learned from that first year that maybe taking requests for pledges wasn’t manageable.”

Support has increased since then.

The event raised more than $100,000 for the first time in 1982, $200,000 in 1995 and $300,000 in 1999. Donations finally surpassed $500,000 last year. These funds are used for charity care, research and to support special programs at the hospital such as bereavement, music therapy, toys and art supplies.

“It’s incredible to see the generosity,” said Doug Wright, now entering his 36th year with the radiothon. “It’s not about KSL. It’s about our listeners using KSL as a conduit to make a donation to the hospital. The generosity each and every year is breathtaking.”

Gage Thompson’s story

That generosity has benefitted families like the Thompsons.

Gretchen Thompson describes her son Gage as “all boy.” The 6-year-old likes riding his bike, playing soccer, building with Legos and playing with his two dogs, Chief and Ozzie. Most who see him have no idea what he’s been through, his mother said.

In November 2011, Gage became sick and complained of headaches. Having already taken him to the family doctor, his parents felt impressed to take him to Primary Children’s. That's where a scan revealed a large brain tumor.

Because the tumor was so close to his brain stem, it had to be removed in pieces over two surgeries lasting a total of 18 hours.

“It was a miracle,” Gretchen Thompson said. “Our doctor was amazing. He hugged us, he cried with us.”

Gage Thompson’s recovery was aided by daily root beer floats at Primary Children’s and a special friendship with the Holladay Fire Department. More than two years later, he is healthy and thriving, despite occasional problems with balance.

“Our experience with the hospital was great. There was someone there to help us at every turn,” Gretchen Thompson said. “We are changed forever and have an increased sense of gratitude. As a family, we have tried to be more aware of what is going on around us, to do more charity work and help where we can, because we know how much it helps, and to show our gratitude by giving back.”

Memorable moments

Alex Kirry, co-host of KSL Radio’s Nightside Project, remembers well his first year with the radiothon seven years ago. At that point, the radiothon was a 26-hour marathon. Kirry and co-host Ethan Millard had the 7 to midnight shift.

“It was five hours of giving out that phone number and feeling the excitement that’s up there,” Kirry said.

Around midnight, despite the lateness of the hour, Kirry said the group reached a lofty goal in donations and everyone was cheering and slapping high-fives. They were also physically exhausted. When Kirry finally arrived home around 1:30 a.m., he woke up his wife to share the good news.

“That’s all great, but can we talk about it in the morning?” she said.

Kirry remembers going to sleep only to be shaken awake a short time later by his wife, who asked him what he was doing.

“What?” he asked.

“You keep giving out a phone number,” she informed him.

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