Nineteen years ago, someone thought up the innovative idea to involve the community in our mission in a new way. From that, the WZPL Request-A-Thon was born. The Request-A-Thon is an event unlike any other. Not often do you have roughly 450 volunteers help at one event. It’s not every day that we are able to get a variety of food from local restaurants donated to feed all those volunteers. We don’t typically raise $624,072 and grant 78 wishes in 36 hours. But for the Request-A-Thon we can.
What I find most appealing about the event is its strategic placement around the holiday season. It’s easy to get caught up in Black Friday sales and forget about the giving part of the holidays, but the Request-A-Thon is there to remind us about it. This year, we saw donations from kids’ piggy banks and those who didn’t want any gifts so that their money could go towards granting a wish. One mother called in and donated $100 for each year of her child’s life. Another mother donated $1,000 for each of her healthy children. This event humbles people. At the same time, it reminds everyone that our wish kids are just that – kids. We heard about wish kids who want to travel to far away places or meet their favorite character down at Walt Disney World. When we hear about these kids, we realize they aren’t much different than the children we know and love in our own lives.
I love seeing the wish kids come into the studio to talk about their wish that has already been granted and those who bring all the excitement when they talk about their awaiting wish. This year, we were lucky enough to see Austin’s wish granted right in studio, as his guitar was presented to him.
We heard Hailey talk about what it’s like to have cystic fibrosis and all the treatments that come with it, but also how excited she is to travel to Hawaii.
Moriah and Trenton, two wish kids who crossed paths because of the same wish, came into studio to talk about their experience and the friendship that was formed.
It’s always great to hear about wish kids, but hearing FROM wish kids and their families is a completely different experience.
We have our staple stories for the Request-A-Thon: Luke Butler and Stephen Hamer. While there are a few staff members in the Indiana office that were around when Luke’s wish was granted, I am one of the unfortunate ones to have never met Luke. But each time the Butler family talks about him and shares what he taught them, I feel like I get to know him more and more. My favorite line Luke’s mom Erin said was “Luke taught us how to be content.” It isn’t something you think about too often – not in a world where we are constantly reaching for more. By hearing his story at the Request-A-Thon year after year, Luke continues to teach all of us how to live.
The same can be said about Stephen Hamer. His dad, Tom, comes in every year to talk about Stephen and the legacy he left behind. And every year, we try to hold back the tears as Enya’s “Only Time” plays in the background of Stephen’s graduation speech and Tom’s eulogy – two events that took place entirely too close together. This year Stephen’s friend Tyler joined Tom in reminding us how Stephen lived his life; always wanting to do something.
Raising $624,072 and breaking last year’s record was no easy task, but as always, we are setting our sights high to break it next year at the 20th WZPL Request-A-Thon. We couldn’t do this without the continued support of WZPL, the companies and schools that raise money, and all the Hoosiers who call in to donate any amount. From all of us, thank you and we look forward to hearing from you next year.