Stories: The Heart Behind the Success of MIX’s 2020 Radiothon

“When you’re broadcasting from a studio rather than the hospital your emotions are protected from the raw experience of being inside of a children’s hospital. Duke Children’s is a place of hope, yes. But it’s also a place of pain. It grounds your perspective. It reminds us why we’re doing what we do. My fear in doing a Radiothon from the studio was that we’d lose that perspective. We didn’t. And it’s because of stories.”
–WRAL-FM’s Bryan Lord

MIX 101.5 wrapped up the 26th Annual Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, raising an awe-inspiring total of over $400k.  Despite changes in venue – the usual live broadcast from the hospital lobby had to be confined to the WRAL-FM studios due to COVID – the stories of the patients and their families had the power to inspire listeners to give in a big way even during these tough times.

After the dust had cleared, WRAL-FM Asst Program Director/Music Director Jim Kelly and the three WRAL-FM Morning Co-Hosts Kyle Smesler, Bryan Lord and Sarah King spoke with Capcom, sharing their favorite interviews from the memorable 2020 event.

Miracles and Memories
MIX staffers worried the move to the studio, away from the people and the action of the hospital, might muffle the heart behind Radiothon.

Chloe McLamb

Highlights from the 2020 MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital: Chloe McLamb

“When you’re broadcasting from a studio rather than the hospital your emotions are protected from the raw experience of being inside of a children’s hospital,” said Lord.  “Duke Children’s is a place of hope, yes. But it’s also a place of pain. It grounds your perspective. It reminds us why we’re doing what we do. My fear in doing a Radiothon from the studio was that we’d lose that perspective. We didn’t. And it’s because of stories.”

Kelly shared one of his standout moments of MIX’s 2020 Radiothon.

SO many great stories and difficult to pick one, but I’ll choose an interview I got to do with Chloe McLamb and her family. Chloe is 9 years old and was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. Her family and doctors decided the best way to treat her was Rotationplasty where they removed the knee and attached her foot, backwards at her thigh and now her ankle acts as her knee and her foot goes into her prosthetic leg…most amazing thing I’ve ever heard…Rotationplasty…look it up.

Kelly is a cornerstone of Radiothon.  The event is particularly dear to him because of his own experience at Duke Children’s with his infant twins in 2004.  He had worked Radiothon for several years before their births, and then understood the struggles in a whole new way after his personal story.

The Pappas Family

Highlights from the 2020 MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital: The Pappas Family

Lord was struck by the story that came early in the two-day Radiothon:

At 7am on the very first day we interviewed the Pappas family. The youngest, Benjamin, is a Freshman in high school and a patient at Duke Children’s. He has a very painful condition in which his body attacks his own bone marrow.

His mother, Ruthie, told us that one night at the hospital his pain was so bad that she picked him up, ran him to the parking garage and just held him. In the moment she comforted him in the only way she as a mother knew how.

My heart broke as she told the story and I cried while trying to understand how she must have felt. I thought about my unborn child due in April. How all I’d want to do is protect her from pain.

Ruthie’s story connected with me. It grounded my perspective through the next 24 hours of broadcasting. It fueled my passion for what we were doing without the noises of the hospital around to remind me.

Sosa Evbuomwan

Highlights from the 2020 MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital: Sosa Evbuomwan

Patients and Families Giving Back
Smelser shared a touching story of a former patient wanting to pay it forward.

“There are so many wonderful moments within the Radiothon that capture your heart and inspire you. A stand-out moment for me was an interview we had with a 21-year-old senior at UNC, Sosa. She was born with sickle cell disease. Something once incurable but with the miracle of science and advancement of technology it is now possible for it to be cured.

“By the age of 13, she had her second bone marrow transplant. This transplant cured her of sickle cell. She is now thriving as a college student and plans on pursuing a career in medicine. Why? Because she wants to be the one offering help and giving back after she was the one needing it when she was just a kid.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see former patients growing up to become adults and think, ‘Now, how do I give back?’ Proud of her!” 

Taylor & Melissa Blanton

Highlights from the 2020 MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital: Taylor & Melissa Blanton

King was touched by a family who suffered a terrible loss but wanted to give back to the hospital that helped their son:

“The Blanton family was especially poignant. They lost a child after only 31 days. Instead of running from the memory of such a tragic time, they decided to give his life purpose. They remodeled the room where they were allowed to be along with their son so it’s more welcoming and functional for families that will come after them. The strength it takes to do that is unbelievable. It really puts your entire world into perspective.” 

Blown Away
The MIX team was touched at how families showed up virtually to share their stories and then the listeners responded in a huge way.

“It might not have been the biggest number ever raised, even though 400 grand is huge, it was our most proud Radiothon,” said Smelser.  “It showed the heart of our state, it showed the heart of our listeners and more importantly than anything else, kids will be able to have those miracles at Duke Children’s Hospital.”

Kelly agreed.

“We truly had low expectations going in,” he said.  “We knew it had been a tough year all around. Several of the corporate sponsors that normally step up weren’t there this year. To say we were blown away by the total would be a gross understatement.”

WRAL-FM Brand/Content Manager Sammy Simpson says the radio team is beyond thankful for the result.

“I echo a sentiment shared by MIX Mornings with Kyle, Bryan and Sarah when revealing the fundraising total for our 26th Radiothon,” said Simpson.  “Thank you so much to all our listeners and partners from the bottom of our hearts – you made this possible!”

Thanks to WRAL-FM and Duke Children’s Hospital for these Capcom photos.


Find out more about the results of the 26th Annual MIX 101.5 Radiothon:

Comments are closed.