How WGN’s John Williams and His Listeners Keep Amazing Us

Dec 21, 2020

WGN radio host John Williams and his listeners keep blowing us away. After ringing bells at Salvation Army Red Kettles for more than 30 years, an impressive enough feat in itself, three years ago John held his first radiothon. Thanks to his compassion and his listeners’ generosity, it was a success.

Last year, the second year of the radiothon, he set what felt like an ambitious goal of $35,000. His listeners gave more than twice that!

This year, the goals got interesting. A couple of John’s colleagues decided to put the ‘do in Doing the Most Good. If the radiothon raised $50,000, sports reporter Joe Brand, who had been growing his hair out during the pandemic, would get a buzz cut. A total of $75,000 would save his hair. For $80,000, David Hochberg, a regular real estate and mortgage expert on WGN radio, would dye his hair “Salvation Army red.” For a total of $85,000, he’d add a white stripe down the middle.

Once again, John Williams’ listeners defied all expectations and donated more than $170,000. The hair appointments were made. (Check out Joe and David’s new ‘dos here.)

And we at The Salvation Army were thrilled. Across the greater Chicago area, our corps community centers have seen staggering needs this year, sometimes up to five times as many requests for food, rent assistance, and Christmas aid than we usually receive. This donation from John and his listeners comes right when we need it most.

“I think what I've learned is that more than give, people want to participate, they want to belong,” John said, reflecting on this year’s radiothon. “And when you give to The Salvation Army, you know you are part of something bigger than just your donation. You are, in fact, a vital part of this very organized and efficient effort to help the Army do the most good. To feed people's stomachs, hearts, and souls. That feels good. And our listeners showed it.”

This money will now keep families off the streets, feed hungry seniors, provide safe places for kids to learn and play, support survivors of human trafficking, help men and women get and stay sober, bring hope to the hopeless, and equip us to be there for our neighbors in need, no matter what 2021 brings us.

After the WGN radiothon, John admitted, “In fact, I don’t like asking for money. My goal is always . . . reasonable. Achievable. But my friends Lou [Manfredini] and Dave [Hochberg] say, ‘Never underestimate The Salvation Army and our audience’s willingness to give!’”

We certainly won’t underestimate John and his listeners either. And we offer them all our sincerest gratitude. As we keep Doing the Most Good, know that we couldn’t do it without you.


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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.


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