Q & A with Ryan Lightner: 2014 Radiothon

August 29, 2014 by


Dr. Jim Nataro stops by the Radiothon.

Q: What was the Radiothon event?
A: T
he Charlottesville Radio Group Cares for Kids Radiothon was hosted on April 10-11, from 6 am – 6 pm. WINA (AM 1070), The Corner (FM 106.1), and Lite Rock Z95 (FM 95.1) worked together to broadcast some of UVA Children’s Hospital’s most inspiring stories. Patients, parents, doctors, nurses, and supporters shared their experiences and callers made pledges to support the children.

Q: Was this the first year of the event?
A: Yes, this was the first year of the event with this radio station. We had a CMN Radiothon at this hospital with a different station (Monticello Media) that ended about 8 years ago. Hopefully this will be the first of many Radiothons with this station as this partnership grows.

Q: Where did you get the idea for this event?
Before coming to UVA Children’s Hospital in September 2012, I was the Assistant Director of CMN at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and was responsible for coordinating their Radiothon. From my past experiences, I saw the inherent value of this type of event not just for fundraising purposes but the public exposure that comes with Radiothon. I have been planning this event almost since I arrived at UVA so it really has been an 18 month effort. Not to mention that the staff at Charlottesville Radio Group were very passionate about this event and everything that Children’s Miracle Network stands for from day 1.

Q: Will you do this event again?
We would like to make the Cares for Kids Radiothon an annual event. The event was a huge success for the Children’s Hospital and the radio station. Ultimately, we would like to build a loyal listener base and get people excited about Radiothon every year. This was really a very basic version of what could potentially be a very large community event.

Q: What was the main reason for holding this event?
We set out with a goal in mind to raise $10,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Program but because the event was new and had so many moving pieces, it was difficult to generate an estimate about what we could accomplish. Frankly, any amount of money would have been view as a success. What we quickly realized as the event progressed was that it was filling a void that was left in the Children’s Hospital when the Telethon went away.

Radiothon has become a public place to share OUR story to the community. Doctors are able to talk about new and exciting research. Former patient families can talk about how grateful they are and revisit some of the staff that helped them through a tough time in their lives. Even families with children currently in care at UVA Children’s Hospital came down to talk about the importance of having this facility right here in central Virginia. We ended up raising a lot of money at the event but the exposure that the Children’s Hospital received was priceless.

Q: What was your process for planning this event?
This event took a long time to prepare. I would meet with the station once a month to go over the planning and logistics of the event. I was responsible for providing the setting, stage, and interviews for the event and the station was responsible for selling the idea of donating and using their resources as a vehicle for solicitation.

Q: How long was the Radiothon? How many people came out?
The event was on April 10 – 11 from 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM on both days. Over the course of the event, radio personalities took stage in the lobby of the Medical Center and asked listeners to pledge a 12 x 12 ($12 a month for 12 months) to become a Miracle Maker for the kids in our community. During the course of the event we had about 40 live interviews of doctors, nurses, staff, and patient families talk about why UVA Children’s Hospital is such a special place. Volunteers from the community manned a phone bank that listeners would call and make their pledge.

Q: Was there one story from the event that really stood out for you?
We had a lot of great interviews throughout the event. I had one interview that really stood out to me. Towards the end of the day on Thursday, a teen patient was walking by the event and stopped briefly to watch. She had lost her hair and it was apparent that she was in the middle of a chemotherapy treatment. She asked if she could come on the show tomorrow and I told her to come back down towards the end of the day.

She came back down on Friday for the final segment of the Radiothon. Radio personality Les Sinclair invited her on to the stage for an interview. When we came back on the air, it was like the two were lifelong friends just having a conversation. It didn’t seem like an interview but an instant connection. She talked about how she wishes she was back in school and how she missed her friends. Then she talked about her dreams of becoming a nurse and her plans for the future. Everything just seemed so genuine. It was a moment that Les and everyone there is going to remember for the rest of our lives.

Q: The final total of the 2014 Radiothon was $20,115. What will this money provide?
Over the course of the event we receive more than 100 new donations totaling $20,115. This money is unrestricted and will go towards pediatric research, life-saving equipment, and child development tools.

Q: Overall, what was your favorite part of being involved in this event?
My favorite part of this event is the energy that is generated. The excitement of the phones ringing and watching our community come together for people that they may never meet is inspiring to me.

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