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As Long as We Remember...

December 7, 2009

The Best Versions of Ourselves

Steven R. Berryman

Bob Miller’s Christmas Cash for Kids is now on the books for 2009 with a record pledge amount exceeding $134,000. The total dollar amount beat last year – even in the depths of our Great Recession – but dollar amount does not tell the story.


The WFMD (am930) radiothon touches all segments of Frederick County Marylander’s lives now, and has been building towards this since the mid-1970s.


The entry level of the program’s process is the induction level, identifying and qualifying recipients, accomplished by the good offices of the Salvation Army, where screening for need takes place. More than 2,100 needy children were identified this year in a gut-wrenching process where parents must prove their need with income statements and copies of bills.


This is the other side of the coin that was recently highlighted by the United Way’s “Community Action Poverty Simulation.” Unlike the simulation, Christmas Cash for Kids brings the consequences of bad luck, poor economy, and extended hopelessness into the very living rooms of those donating, and especially the volunteers running the radio-based charity.


Where the United Way program demonstrates the suffering, and covers the education piece well, Christmas Cash for Kids is the action-plan to target relief to where it can be best applied. In the process, volunteers manning the phones, those making donations, or focusing on the solicitation end always receive more than they put into it!


That the consequences of bankruptcy or extended illness shall not be felt by our kids on Christmas morning is the credo.


This point was pounded home by the station’s local celebrity and de facto leader of the “Frederick Good Old Boys” Blaine Young: “When you are a child, you don’t come into the world choosing your economic circumstances or where you live.”


And the point is not lost that these kids should not pay for what is out of their control, especially during Christmas.


It’s the story of an entire county coming together to “take care of their own.”


The WFMD station ownership, management, and staff are to be most commended for tossing out a full regular week of programming routines, and for allowing Bob and Blaine’s army of fans, volunteers, and previous recipients to completely take over.


Thanks, Frank and Doug!


What may be unseen is that the advertisers supporting WFMD with commercial revenue continue to place and purchase their regular ads during the week, even with the disruptions to the programming and changing demographics.


Heck, many of these people are the largest contributors and helpers to the entire fundraising week!


Among guest DJs and radio personalities to participate in the week long broadcasts were past and present legends of radio broadcasting from across the spectrum such as Ron Ross, Kemosabe Joe, award winning Leonard Roberts, nationally syndicated Jim Bohannon, and even Johnny Holliday, the voice of the Maryland Terrapins.


Debbie Williams of the Patty Pollatos Fund and many other charitable endeavors “poured sugar” over the entire process by their mere presence!


Terry Cramer was a fixture with us. This young man overcame terrible medical maladies to be a full part of and representative of Christmas Cash for Kids. Talk about amazing spirit…


Characterizing the pool of those making donations is impossible. I witnessed a cavalcade of people calling and visiting with cash donations from politicians as diverse as state Del. Rick Weldon, state Sen. David Brinkley, and County Commissioner Kai Hagen.


The State Police sent us a master sergeant and we had the current – plus the upcoming – president of the Fraternal Order of Police make a visit. From Sheriff’s deputies to City of Frederick Police, we had it all, including our own elected sheriff of Frederick County, Chuck Jenkins.


Chuck comes as a ritual every final Friday!


From farms large and small, from bagel shops to car washes, from the well off to “not doing too well,” the donations sprang forth.


Stories from hardships suffered to elation on Christmas morning filled the airwaves continually for the entire week, coordinated by Bob Miller, the essential ingredient to pulling the Christmas Cash for Kids program together. He was seemingly everywhere in his ability to project this worthy cause.


And if the man ever got tired, it never showed.


Highlights for me included remote broadcasts from the mobile truck of WFMD by Blaine. The dude was everywhere, from most local Roy Rogers to the Hampton Inn and Suites, this plus a full afternoon freezing outside of Barley & Hops.


He got so cold at one live remote that he singed his pants on a space heater and never even felt it until confronted by a well wisher!


On another occasion Blaine was approached by a man with a single dollar. It brought forth tears as he explained that he was unemployed and couldn’t make ends meet, yet wanted to feel the benefit of giving that last dollar bill…


The emotional peak came with an 11 year old making a donation and attempting to explain what it felt like to not have any Christmas due to hardships; it was just not possible for her to get it out…and everyone “lost it” at that point…


Phone banks taking donations were manned by Jordan Ross, her mom, and Robin for most of the time, with a host of alternates.  And of course, Debbie Williams pulled shifts there as well, along with “Pizza-girl” Wendy.


Show regulars like Catfish, and others called and drove, and did their parts…


And then there was the wonderful food provided by many, including full buffets served up by the outspoken station regular Woodchuck in more than one location, and capping it off from Dutch’s Daughter Restaurant late on that last night.


Fred Propheter was (sshhhhhh) Fred-Clause in costume driving a truck tirelessly for donations on many shifts, and Scott Rosenfeld came to provide therapeutic massages for volunteers; WFMD News Director Dianah Gibson and husband Jeff got “taken care of” here!


Check out for videos showing highlights, and especially the closing prayer and microphone session from late on the final Friday if you can.


And when God made it snow the next morning, it was surely a sign.


If you were any part of Christmas Cash for Kids at all, you will “get it.”


Borrowing from Bob, on this week, we had been “The best versions of ourselves.”



Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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