Spanish-format radio raises millions for St. Jude

La Ley and Onda stations celebrate their radiothon.

Supporters and staff of La Ley and Onda Chicago radio stations
celebrate the conclusion of their first radiothon, which raised
more than $936,000 in pledges.

The Hispanic population in the United States has been booming since the 1980s. According to the latest census, Hispanics are now the largest minority population in America. The popularity of Spanish-format radio has increased as the population has grown.

In the early 1990s, this new radio format erupted across the airwaves of the broadcasting industry, pushing what had been a sporadic radio genre into a phenomenon that can claim at least one station in almost every major U.S. city, including each of the nation’s top 20 radio markets. But Spanish radio isn’t just a format to be lumped into categories such as hard rock, easy listening or sports talk; Spanish radio is also an important medium for delivering cultural messages.

Recognizing the philanthropic potential in the Hispanic community, ALSAC, the hospital’s fund-raising arm, launched a Spanish radiothon program. In September 1997, Promesa y Esperanza (Promise and Hope) was introduced at KXEK-AM in Fresno, California.

“We realized that it was very important to get the message of St. Jude out to the community at the local level, and radio allowed us that great opportunity,” says Lucia Heros, of ALSAC Hispanic Marketing. “We needed to educate the community about St. Jude, raise money and create a way that made it easy for people to give.”

Since then, 79 stations have become members of the Promesa family that stretches from Los Angeles, California, to Miami, Florida. Working together, the stations have raised more than $12 million in pledges to help los niños del St. Jude. And the numbers continue to grow.

WADO-AM 1280 in New York joined with St. Jude three years ago to help, in the words of Danny Ortiz, “the most helpless and innocent victims of all children with catastrophic diseases.” Ortiz, program director for WADO, says the message of St. Jude resonates with the values of his station’s listeners.

“Hispanics are passionate, empathetic and very loyal toward issues that really matter, like education, family, health and childhood diseases,” he says. “These important issues definitely strike the emotional chord and make listeners want to pick up the phone and help make a difference.”

Although they knew that their listeners would support St. Jude, many broadcast representatives were surprised by the amount of giving they have seen.

“We were initially overwhelmed by the support that we received from our listeners,” Ortiz says. “It is unbelievable that in the past three years we have raised more than $2.1 million in cash and pledges for the kids of St. Jude.” Ortiz’s station raised $832,066 during its latest radiothon in February 2004.

Modeled after the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® radiothons, Promesa provides stations with everything they need for successful two-day radiothons, from brochures to volunteer phone operators to Spanish-speaking St. Jude families who can give listeners first-hand accounts of what the hospital means to them.

“St. Jude had pioneered radio fund-raising through Country Cares, and we tested the formula with Spanish-language radio—and it worked,” Heros says. “The phones rang and the community came out to support the kids, and their generosity was overwhelming.”

That generosity continues to grow.

In December 2003, the Hispanic community in Chicago showed its generosity by pledging $936,135 during the first radiothons hosted by stations La Ley and Onda.

“We are truly grateful for the commitment and support we have seen from our radio stations, La Familia Promesa y Esperanza,” says ALSAC’s Radio and Entertainment Director Teri Watson. “The Hispanic community has enthusiastically embraced the dream of Danny Thomas that ‘no child should die in the dawn of life.’ With the help of Promesa stations and their listeners, St. Jude continues to lead the battle against childhood catastrophic diseases.”


Reprinted from Promise magazine, spring 2004

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