WRAL-FM Blown Away by Almost $400k Raised for Duke Children’s in 2020 Radiothon

“We didn’t even think we could do a Radiothon this year. The fact that we not only pulled it off logistically and technically, but to bring in almost $400K is nothing short of miraculous!”
— WRAL-FM Morning Personality Sarah King

Bryan Lord, Kyle Smelser & Sarah King

WRAL-FM’s Morning Team Bryan Lord (l to r), Kyle Smelser & Sarah King present the check for the 26th Annual MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital at the end of the two-day event on Wednesday, December 16. The grand total: $397,227.42!

WRAL-FM had tempered expectations going into the 26th Annual MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital, with many changes and restrictions due to the pandemic, but MIX listeners came through in a way that absolutely humbled the staff.  The two-day Radiothon resulted in $397,227.42 donations!

“I think I can speak for the MIX family…we were absolutely blown away by the total,” said WRAL-FM Asst Program Director/Music Director Jim Kelly.  “It’s incredible to think that in the year we have had, we could raise almost $400,000. It was amazing to see donations come in ranging from $5 all the way up to $10,000! That’s right, we had a $10,000 pledge!! That just goes to show you, you never know who is listening. Our listeners are AMAZING!”

An Incredible Result
The staff had gone into the event wondering if they would be able to raise much at all but were touched by the determination of MIX listeners to give as they were able.

“We had no big corporate sponsors this year for obvious reasons,” said WRAL-FM Morning Personality Sarah King.  “Knowing that fact, I was expecting the number to be in the low $200k, not almost $400K! What really warms my heart about that number was that it was built mostly by small donations. $10, $15, $50 donations. The amount of people that gave is really phenomenal. Take that 2020.”

King worked alongside her MIX Mornings co-hosts Bryan Lord and Kyle Smelser during Radiothon.

“The economic downturn meant less businesses made large donations,” said Lord.  “It meant less people made donations…or so we thought. What we ended up seeing was unification of Carolinians toward a singular goal. If people couldn’t give as much as before, they gave what they could. And people who were fortunate this year, stepped up and gave more. I mean…….wow. In a year that’s been chaos and divisiveness, a community coming together to raise $400,000 for kids fills you with hope. It certainly does for those kids.”


“The quote of the Radiothon comes from one of our favorite families The Reese family. Joanne and Blaine lost their first son at Duke at only 5 months old. They do fundraisers for Duke and their Littleman Foundation year after year and always come to share their story. The family wasn’t able to hold their normal fundraisers yet many of the past participants in their fundraisers donated anyway and they brought in $38,000! Blaine’s line was ‘COVID-WHAT?’ …PRICELESS!”
–WRAL-FM Asst Program Director/Music Director Jim Kelly


A Change of Venue, But Doubled Down Determination
The event took place on Tuesday, December 15 and Wednesday, December 16.  The MIX team traditionally broadcasts live from the lobby of Duke Children’s Hospital, but due to COVID had to broadcast from the WRAL-FM studios and do interviews virtually.

“We certainly explored and evaluated every possibility or contingency for fundraising in such an uncertain environment,” said WRAL-FM Brand/Content Manager Sammy Simpson, who participated in Radiothon for the first time this year.  “ The discipline of always remembering the purpose of Radiothon against a ‘familiar process’ opened up new ideas and ways to connect as we interacted with listeners, volunteers, families, patients, and internal staff.”

He continued, “Thanks to our team understanding the impressive energy of Duke Children’s from being there year after year and building on that knowledge with the audience we were able to harness this opportunity into a relationship that people truly care about, no matter the circumstance. Our strategy was to focus on the powerful storytelling, an elevated online and social media presence, compelling production and imaging, and optimizing virtual execution to ensure the outcome would celebrate every dollar raised to benefit the community.”

Kelly said he thought having to be in the studio instead of in-person turned out to be a benefit.

2020 MIX 101.5 Radiothon

The grand total for the 26th Annual MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital: $397,227.42!

“I truly feel it was better,” he said.  “Kyle, Bryan and Sarah didn’t have a lot of the distractions (good and bad) that you get when sitting in the lobby of the hospital. In the studio they were able to worry about 2 things and that was making sure the families’ stories were told and we raised a ton of money. We missed the face-to-face interaction with the families because so many of them have become friends. However, we did get to video chat with most of our families over StreamYard so that made it a little better.”

King said another tool helped with being remote.

“We had a live document that all the behind the team staff could update,” she explained.  “It was wonderful to see the names and towns that all the donations were coming from, it helped us to rally the community by showing them how wide the reach of the hospital goes. For me, that innovation was a game changer.”

All Hands On Deck
As always, Radiothon was a team effort, a collaboration between MIX 101.5 and the staff at Duke.

When Lord heard the final total, his mind immediately went to that team.

“I thought about the folks at Duke who sent emails, made phone calls, filled out paperwork, brainstormed, etc. since July in an effort to make Radiothon happen — and happen effectively!” he said.  “Same for our end of things. Our engineer, Will Patnaud did SO MUCH to bring normalcy and efficiency to our end of the Radiothon. Kudos, Will! It looked and sounded great. He as well as our entire team – Mike Ewald and Alyssa Fisher in promotions, Sammy Simpson our Brand Manager, Brian Maloney our VP, Jim Kelly our co-host and producer — worked so hard to make this year’s Radiothon successful/happen.”

Kelly was filled with praise for his co-workers.

“Knowing how special Duke Children’s is to me, I want to say how much I appreciate the dedication and passion that our MIX Mornings team Kyle, Bryan and Sarah brings to the broadcast each year,” he said.  “I felt like a proud father watching and listening to them this year. Knowing how difficult of a year it was and watching them shine! I know that for years to come Duke Children’s and our Radiothon are going to be well taken care of.”

2020 MIX 101.5 RadiothonSimpson was impressed at how in a particularly difficult year, the MIX team dug deep and went above and beyond to make the Radiothon impactful.

“I am very proud of the MIX team for leading such inspiring moments by sharing themselves and blending each family message into motivating The Triangle to generate over $400k for our community that will help kids to overcome illness,” he said.  “Our seasoned staff brings such passion and a commitment every Radiothon to make a difference for Duke Children’s but in a year like no other, this campaign demonstrated our ability to turn a local need into big things you wouldn’t think possible. I am so grateful to be part of my first Radiothon and experience this journey with MIX 101.5 and feel excited about the future.”

WRAL-FM Morning Personality Kyle Smelser summed up the 26th Annual MIX 10105. Radiothon and the reason the MIX team were more committed than ever:

“2020 has been a year. I realize even saying that is an understatement. We’ve all had our own challenges, especially when it comes to the financial impact the pandemic has had on so many families and businesses. At the same time, The Radiothon is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Duke Children’s and we were hopeful that our community would come through. We needed to do it. We had to do it. Families and patients depend on this for those miracles that happen at the hospital. We were overwhelmed with happiness to see so many communities across the state stepping up to make a donation. In a year where there has been so much division in the headlines, it was a wonderful reminder what we can accomplish when we are ‘together’.”

Thanks to all the MIX listeners who generously gave to make Radiothon such an overwhelming success for Duke Children’s Hospital!

Thanks to WRAL-FM for these Capcom photos.

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