Keith Kennedy, longtime radio host and vice president of programming for iHeartMedia, is as excited to be a part of the 98.1 KDD 20th anniversary “Have a Heart, Do Your Part” Radiothon as he was when it first began in 2000. Even before he became the “official” on-air host in 2010, he was an integral part of brainstorming the “Have a Heart, Do Your Part” slogan and has produced all 20 radiothons.
“Partnering with Akron Children’s was a natural fit for KDD because our radio station, like the hospital, is about serving families so it was a perfect marriage,” Kennedy said.
Growing up in Orrville, Kennedy was a healthy kid who didn’t see the inside of a hospital much, but he was familiar with Akron Children’s because of a family member who had been a patient.
“I had a cousin with cerebral palsy a few years younger than me who had several surgeries at Akron Children’s as a youth,” he said.
Too young at the time to understand the significance of having a world-class children’s hospital in his own backyard, as a father, the concept isn’t lost on him now.
“We’ve spent a number of nights in Children’s emergency department for my son and through my years of involvement with radiothon I know all the amazing stories of the children and families the hospital has helped.”
Gearing up for radiothon’s 20th anniversary, Kennedy says the 3-day event is a labor of love for him.
“Meeting the kids and hearing their stories is my favorite part of the job,” he says. “When I meet kids who have gone through rounds of chemo or survived a catastrophic illness or injury, I actually want to learn more about them. They are honest and forthright and say things you wouldn’t expect.”
Kennedy says there are too many kids over the years for him to have a favorite, but he does enjoy getting to see some of the same ones from year to year.
“I get to see their progression as the years go by and that is special,” he said. “And, I always get a kick out of the change bandits who come in with their piggy banks. These moments are distinct because it’s very hard to teach young children empathy. To see them come in after having saved up all year and hand over their money is special.”
While he never sets a monetary goal for radiothon, he is proud of the fact that Akron’s radiothon is one of the top 5 most successful in the country.
“We paint a picture for our listeners. We tell them it doesn’t matter how much you are giving; every bit helps,” he says. “This is an event that everybody can participate in. We try and quantify it by telling folks what their money will buy. If it’s $10 it may cover popsicles for kids who just had tonsil surgery, or $20 could help pay for tongue depressors. I think that’s why our radiothon is so successful – rather than asking for big dollars, we focus on individual gifts that an average person can contribute.”
Kennedy says individuals and companies often call in and offer to match donations made within a certain time period.
“This usually happens very organically,” he said. “It incentivizes people to donate because everyone wants the best value for their dollar and their gift can make a more significant impact when matched.”
Last year, radiothon raised $657,405, and the hope is the 20th anniversary can set new records.
“While it can be a little scary not setting a goal and not knowing how much we will raise, I try to keep the mindset that anything we get is more than we started with.”
If you’d like to contribute to the “Have a Heart, Do Your Part” radiothon, visit akronchildrens.org/radiothon. Follow on social media with the hashtag #KDDRadiothon.