Good Neighbor Radiothon a Huge Success in a Year of Skyrocketing Needs
Though the WBBM Good Neighbor Radiothon benefitting The Salvation Army this past Friday, December 4, was a 25th annual event, many things were different this year because of COVID-19.
We weren’t on location at Woodfield Mall as in years past. Those answering calls from donors weren’t sitting together in a phone bank, but were spread out in different offices to abide by social distancing guidelines. There was no Army band playing Christmas carols as host Pat Cassidy went to and from commercial breaks. There were tears – happy ones. And a dollar figure at the end of the day that blew everyone away.
The goal for the one-day fundraising drive was $150,000, but when the last donation was logged the Army had raised more than $245,000. These funds will provide meals, shelter, winter coats, Christmas presents, and more to those who otherwise would go without.
“We were overwhelmed by our donors’ generosity,” said Lt. Colonel Lonneal Richardson, the Divisional Commander for the Army’s Metropolitan Division. “We have been communicating throughout this Christmas season that the needs are greater this year, due to the pandemic. This year we have once again seen the generosity of Chicagoans to care for their neighbors in need. We are so grateful.”
One high point of the radiothon occurred mid-afternoon, when an anonymous donor gave $37,000. “I was fortunate to be in Carl’s office as he was finishing the call,” said Stephen Carr, Divisional Director of Philanthropy, speaking of one of his team taking calls during the radiothon. The donation was originally for $2,000, part of a special package that gave the donor and a few friends a chance to golf with host Pat Cassidy.
“As Carl thanked her for the $2,000 donation, she stopped Carl in his tracks, and I saw him begin to well up. The donor had just told Carl she was going to donate an additional $35,000 to the radiothon,” Stephen said. “This gift made three grown men get teary-eyed – Carl, Pat Cassidy on air, and me. That gift gave us almost $200,000 in gifts at that moment, crushing any previous totals from years before.”
That gift, like most throughout the day, was matched by one of our many corporate sponsors, including Weather Tech, Wealth Enhancement Group, Antunovich Associates, the Duchossois Family Foundation, Bulley and Andrews, and Toyota. Additionally, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, our restaurant partner, donated 15 percent of all sales on the day of the radiothon when customers mentioned The Salvation Army or the radiothon.
The radiothon is part of the Army’s larger Rescue Christmas campaign, seeking to raise the additional funds needed in a year of skyrocketing requests for assistance. Due to the financial strain caused by the coronavirus, some Salvation Army Metropolitan Division corps community centers have seen as much as a fivefold increase in the numbers of those seeking help.
Unfortunately, this increase coincides with an anticipated 50 percent decrease in funds raised nationally in our Red Kettles, due to a decline in foot traffic and the closing of many retail stores. All of this makes the success of the radiothon especially meaningful.
“I was emotionally drained by the end of the night,” said Stephen, who took calls from donors throughout the day. “Humbled and honored to witness so many great acts of kindness. Our donors, the WBBM staff, our team, and all those who prayed for us truly helped Rescue Christmas."
Rescue Christmas for Our Neighbors in Need
For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.