KKountry 95 began donating money for St. Jude before the Radio-A-Thon even began. In the 1980s, when a young girl in Koshkonong was diagnosed with cancer and had a wish for a pony, the station helped donate the funds to get the girl her wish. Shortly after that, a young lady in West Plains was also diagnosed with cancer and became a patient at St. Jude. The station collected some funds, and sent it to the hospital. Randy Owen, the lead singer of Alabama, was approached by Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, for help with raising funds for the hospital. Owen came up with the idea for Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, and got a group of other country music celebrities together to approach radio stations with country formats. KKountry 95 was one of those charter members.
"It's something that we choose to do, and it's a passion for our employees," said Lynn Hobbs who has been with the radio station since it first began participating in the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids event. "It takes everybody that works here, plus an understanding and awesomely supportve community, to make it happen."
Over the past few years, KKountry 95 has been holding it's annual Radio-A-Thon on the second Wednesday in February. Each year, organizers set a lofty goal and challenge the community to raise the money, which goes to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and each year the community, somehow, meets that goal -- and then some. "It's this mindset that there have been so many children that have been affected in our community and surrounding area that unfortunately have become patients of St. Jude, and this is our way to show them that we care and want to help them," Hobbs said.
The station works with many organizations, churches, businesses and individuals to help raise the money and run the Radio-A-Thon itself. Another big part of the event are area schools, which have competitions to raise money for St. Jude and send students to help answer phones for those making pledges. This year, however, the weather has wreaked havoc on our local schools, so students were unable to help answer phones this year. Also due to the delay, the money they raised wasn't added to the grand total that was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Student fundraising is continuing until Feb. 21. The goal for this year was $180,000, and at the end of the day, the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids Radio-a-Thon had raised $181,106.64.
"It's unbelievable how we continue to grow so much in our donations for the size of our area," said Hobbs. "We are recognized as one of the stations that has the largest per capita contributions in the United States, which considers where we are located and the number of people we have, versus the amount of money we raise."
Hobbs, who started working at the station in 1975, became part owner in 2008, along with her husband, and Bob and Rebecca Eckman. Over the years, the Radio-A-Thon has grown closer and closer to her heart.
"It means a lot to me in a lot of ways. I have personally gotten to know some of the local children that are treated at St. Jude's, and to see them go through their trials and tribulations," recalls Hobbs. "It's very special."
Hobbs is also going to become a grandmother for the first time in the next few weeks, and reflects on how being involved in the event has affected her faith. "I hope that we never have to go, that we never have to face these issues," said Hobbs. "But just in case, there are two places that we look for strength, and that's the good Lord above, and St. Jude's."
As another Radio-A-Thon has come to a close, Hobbs has nothing but praise for her staff. "We have a wonderful staff here. If it weren't for our employees' passion and dedication every year to see that this succeeds, it would never happen."
In particular, Hobbs says that Mike Robertson, Mike Crase and Andrew Eckman, who were on the air all day, are the ones that should get a lot of the credit. "They were on the air from six in the morning until ten at night -- that's a lot of hours to sit back there and talk. I felt like they did a wonderful job," said Hobbs. "It's a passion for us, and I feel like that extends to our surrounding communities as well."