COVID-19 may have stolen event after annual event from Fulton County residents over the past year, but as for the 47th Annual Fulton County Heart Radiothon, the beat goes on.
On Thursday, Feb. 11, phone lines at WMTR 96.1-FM in Archbold will open at 6 a.m. to kick off what has become the county’s most enduring and endearing fundraiser. Over the ensuing 12 hours callers will pledge donations to hear their favorites among the gamut of musical entertainment, all in the name of local heart health.
And while COVID-19 restrictions may slightly alter the event’s traditional protocols the spirit and fun will remain, WMTR owner Maxell Smith Jr. said.
“We reached out to the community…and everybody wanted Radiothon to go on. They said don’t cancel it, do it however you can,” he said. “People really want normalcy. We lost our fair, we lost the Homecoming, we lost the Chicken Festival. We’re living at a time right now where anything you can do that continues on is really healthy, and so this is one of those things.”
With COVID restrictions in place, most of the approximately 30 local celebrity DJs will phone in their one-hour shifts, offering color commentary between song requests. “They won’t be introducing songs like they traditionally do but they’ll appear on air during the hour they’re assigned to keep people connected,” Smith said. “We just want to keep people involved who have been doing this for years.”
He said only a handful of in-studio guests may make an appearance, and they’ll follow masking and distancing rules. Plexiglas will separate them and the song spinners, and microphones and surfaces will be regularly disinfected.
“We’re going to try to make it as normal as possible with safety protocols in place,” Smith said.
As for Heart Radiothon content, the sky remains the limit within the bounds of appropriateness. Whether the listener’s request is rock, country, gospel, blues, golden oldies, sports team fight songs or odd novelty tunes, all musical genres are welcome. And thanks to digital technology, the Radiothon will track them all down.
Perennial favorites have included the Fulton County Dog Pound’s annual request, “Who Let The Dogs Out” by the Baha Men, and Jimmy Dean’s 1976 stalwart tribute to mothers, “I.O.U.,” which has been played each year. And, as is tradition, the DJs will announce listeners’ birthdays, anniversaries or other important occasions.
The same people or groups dedicate the same songs year after year, “and it’s just kind of heartwarming to hear that,” Smith said. “We’ve gotten really used to the familiarity of it, and people really like it.”
What’s most important is that 100% of the donations – which can vary from $5 to $100 or more – remain in Fulton County, he said. Proceeds from listeners pay for cholesterol checks for the county’s high school freshmen and seniors, CPR equipment and supplies for emergency medical crews, heart-related equipment for nursing homes such as Fulton Manor in Wauseon and Fairlawn Haven in Archbold, and educational programs at the Fulton County Senior Center, among other programs.
The Heart Radiothon has also made it possible to provide about 150 automated external defibrillator (AED) units to date to county entities such as the Fulton County County Alano Club, the county airport, Delta Trinity Lutheran Church, the Wauseon Fire Department, and Crossroads Evangelical Church in Wauseon, among others. Recipients this year include the Wauseon Board of Education building.
Last year’s Heart Radiothon raised $28,225, more than enough to push its four-decade total to over $1 million. Treasurer Brett Shea said.
“Given the uncertainty of everything else going on…we’re just really hoping we can continue to raise funds to support the community,” he said.
Smith said no specific monetary goal has been set for this year’s Heart Radiothon out of respect for the difficult financial times the coronavirus pandemic has wrought.
“The board decided that this year we would not set a goal just to be sensitive to the fact that COVID has affected our local Fulton County economy,” he said. “We’re just happy that everybody in every corner of the county that we talked to said, ‘Oh, absolutely do this.’ Not one said, ‘Don’t do it.’”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.