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Canton Radio Cares Auction Benefits Sandy Victims

Five radio stations in the Canton, Ohio market raise funds, supplies

(L-R) Jeremiah and Nikolina of Q92’s Morning Show along with Red Cross volunteers and Curt Werren, president of the Stark County Red Cross Chapter pose at the Canton Radio Cares radiothon.

Last Friday, Nov. 9, five stations in the Canton, Ohio market participated in a radiothon and auction to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The benefit event was broadcast live from 5:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Canton Radio Cares was the brainchild of Q92 WDJQ(FM)’s Program Director John Stewart, who heard from friends in New York about the needs of those affected by the storm. I spoke with him about it.

“One of my friends Martha Reynolds, who was a record rep for many years, reached out on Facebook, and said ‘Hey, I’m organizing to get some stuff to people in Bell Harbor and people in Long Island. If there’s anybody that can help, please let me know,’” Stewart explained. “I wondered what I could do about this. I said, let me reach out to some other stations in our marketplace that are direct competitors to us, and say, ‘Do you guys want to do something?’”

Other Canton stations responded positively: Mix 94.1 WHBC(FM), News-Talk 1480 WHBC(AM), The Light 95.9 WYNT(FM) and WPDN(AM). The Pro Football Hall of Fame also offered its parking lot as a broadcast and collection site, and the Red Cross would be on location to take cash donations, Stewart said. In one weekend, the plans for Canton Radio Cares were well underway.

That Friday, the stations held an online auction, the proceeds of which also went to the American Red Cross, earmarked to help those affected by Sandy. Items for sale included a pink guitar autographed by P!nk, an Affinity bass bearing Randy Jackson and Casey Abrams’s signatures, an autographed Katy Perry tour jacket and guitars autographed by Maroon 5, FUN and Linkin Park, as well as a set of CDs and a bottle of wine signed by Train.

Just one truck of five filled with donations collected by the Canton radio Cares radiothon, Nov. 9.

“We collected $14,000 in cash that day, plus we had items up for auction that we had gotten from the record companies on all of our websites. That raised another, I want to say, $2,300. We were over the $17,000 mark by the end of the day on Friday,” Stewart said.

In addition to the auction, the stations collected clothing, diapers, blankets, pet food, trash bags, flashlights, batteries, gas cans, hazmat masks, disinfectant and generators. Originally, Stewart and the other program directors hoped to fill one truck, but the community’s response was overwhelming: by 6 p.m., they had filled five 26-foot long U-Haul trucks.

“I just felt, and I think that my counterparts felt, that we wanted a personal connection, and we wanted to make sure that we knew that the items we were collecting from people were actually going to get to the people that needed it the most,” Stewart said.

“I think we all worked together really early on Friday morning to make sure that the set-up was what they needed, and that Wi-Fi was set up so that we had enough Wi-Fi that we didn’t interfere with each other. Those are logistical concerns. You certainly don’t want one radio station being louder than another while they’re trying to broadcast. It’s just a matter of letting everybody know that this is for the greater good and we’re all going toward the same goals. As of 5:30 this morning, we’re not competitors; we’re doing this together,” Stewart said.

And the cooperation hasn’t ended with the Nov. 9 broadcast. Stewart said that stations have been sharing videos and photos from the day and some are planning to work together again for Canton’s annual Spirit of Giving event. But Stewart understands that doesn’t mean that the environment of the market has permanently changed.

“You’ve got to have a reason to get with the other radio stations,” Stewart said. “A lot of people still have that mindset that there are direct competitors, and we don’t want to have anything to do with what they’re doing, and that’s just not the case.”