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

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

“I was giving out the phone number in my sleep. It was embedded. I will never forget it, KSL-KIDS (575-5437),” Kirry said. “I guess I kept saying it over and over.”

His co-workers got a big laugh out of the story the next day.

“You never forget your first radiothon,” Kirry said.

The KSL Radiothon takes place in a multipurpose room on the third floor at Primary Children’s. Volunteers sit at tables lined with telephones that are constantly ringing. The tables surround an area called “the pit,” the space where the KSL Radio personalities stand and interact with the volunteers. It’s a magical, party-like atmosphere, Goodrich said.

“There is an energy that is hard to describe. It’s so loud that it’s hard to hear the poor caller on the other end,” Goodrich said. “It feels like the whole state is calling and saying we love the children and want to make a difference.”

The radio hosts are the game-changers, Goodrich said. They have a remarkable talent for telling stories, expressing thoughts and helping the listeners to connect with the children who need help.

"I think one of the most satisfying things for me is to watch our KSL on-air hosts feel and see some of the things we see on a daily basis," Goodrich said. "Their ability to paint that masterful picture for the listening audience is something few of us can do. That's what gets the phones to ring."

Goodrich and Wright both remember when Karen Ashton, wife of WordPerfect Corporation co-founder Alan Ashton (together they founded Thanksgiving Point), attended the radiothon and announced she would triple donations for a short time.

“For the next hour the phones were on fire and we could not keep up,” Goodrich said.

Wright has been touched over the years by the people and their generous gifts, large and small. He recalls one woman who used to collect aluminum cans during the year and donate the earnings to the radiothon. She would also show up with freshly baked goods for everyone.

Another man consistently contributed $5,000 to $10,000 and declined to be recognized.

There have even been phone calls from truckers driving across the state who have no ties to Utah but wanted to help.

“It brings out the best of everybody. Individuals and corporate sponsors have stepped up in significant ways,” Wright said. “The ones that touch me are the mom-and-pop donations where you know this is a sacrifice, this is coming off the dining room table or the utility bill. This is going to make things tough for the next little while.”

The one thing that makes Wright feel bad is hearing a caller apologize for not giving more.

“If there is one thing I have learned in the radiothon, it’s the principle of the widow’s mite,” the longtime radio talk show host said. “I hope everybody who gives to the radiothon, regardless of the amount, knows what a difference it makes. That money is appreciated whatever it might be.”

‘Miracle makers’

The radiothon is following a different format this year. Instead of a 26-hour radiothon, KSL Radio and Primary Children's have carried out a month-long educational campaign that will conclude with an all-day fundraiser. As part of the new campaign, listeners are encouraged to become "miracle makers" and donate $15 each month for the whole year, said KSL program director Kevin LaRue.

"This way, by the end of the year, you will be able to do more for the hospital than you would be able to do at one time," LaRue said. "It's a little bit of a leap of faith. We hope listeners will jump into this concept of continual giving and being a miracle maker. Hopefully we will be able to do something more remarkable for the hospital than we have done before."

Donations can always be made to help children at the hospital. Mail-in donations can be sent to: KSL Radiothon Primary Children’s Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 58249, Salt Lake City, UT 84158-0249. Both the Deseret News and KSL are owned by Deseret Management Corporation.

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com, Twitter: tbtoone

Get The Deseret News Everywhere