In its 20th year, the Have a Heart, Do Your Part Radiothon on WKDD (98.1-FM) raised $691,343.26 for Akron Children's Hospital.

The Akron radiothon was the seventh largest English-language radiothon in the country last year when it raised $657,405, said Nicci Avalon, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals program manager at Children’s Hospital. In 2008, the fundraiser had its highest total with $1 million collected.

This year’s tally makes the total over the 20 years nearly $11.7 million.

"Every year, we're overwhelmed with the support and generosity the community shows us during the radiothon and this year was no exception," Avalon said.

The three-day event ended Saturday and included three days of on-air time with WKDD radio personalities Keith Kennedy and Tony McGinty, thousands of dollars in pledges, loose change collected by Change Bandits and some corporate sponsors.

One school, Watson Elementary School in Stark County’s Perry Local Schools, has raised $55,000 in 15 years of supporting the radiothon.

As a new teacher 16 years ago, kindergarten instructor Alexxis Rochford wanted to become a Change Bandit with her class. They raised $200.

“I wanted to use my teaching as an ability to get them to learn compassion,” Rochford said.

As her students moved on to other classrooms each year, they wanted to continue to raise money, and after a few years, the whole school got involved.

This year alone, the 350 students raised $6,795, including $3,500 in loose change.

The big difference, Rochford said, was working with the art teacher to have every student decorate his or her own Change Bandit container and take it home for a week. Rochford also had a video to show the students some of the patients they were benefiting.

“My aide covered 350 containers with paper,” said Rochford, who has led the effort for 15 of the last 16 years since she was out on maternity leave one year and the school didn’t participate that year.

The money was raised in a week and a half — extended a few days because there were some snow days, she said.

One year, there were a few large checks from parents, but this year was all loose change or activities geared toward the kids, including a family bingo night with a bake sale that made $800, face painting and popcorn, Rochford said.

Rochford and some other volunteers hand-counted and rolled $3,500 in coins, including 24,000 pennies.

Classrooms also use the radiothon and counting money as part of their math lessons.

“Our community is not a wealthy community. They’re just so giving toward the hospital. So many of our kids go there, they really value the resource,” she said.

Radiothon host Keith Kennedy said he’s always overwhelmed by what the community gives to “recognize how important the hospital is” to the area.

Kennedy said 100 percent of funds raised go directly to patient care; administrative costs are funded by a separate hospital fund and sponsorships.

The largest fund that benefits from the radiothon is the Children’s Fund, which is used for patient programs and patient care, including charitable care for patients, Avalon said.

 

Beacon Journal staff writer Amanda Garrett contributed to this report. Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com.