“Yes, we play country music. But we are a St. Jude radio station.”
Looking back on 28 years as a successful on-air personality, Don Chase of WKML 95.7 FM in Fayetteville, North Carolina, can easily identify the high point of his career: his station’s involvement with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“When you can play a small part in saving the life of a child, it’s a little piece of heaven,” says Chase, who has been a part of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® for most of the radiothon program’s 25 years.
Chase recalls his first visit to St. Jude 24 years ago, when he met the parent of a St. Jude patient.
“I remember the profound impact it had on me to sit there and talk to this mom who was telling us her story,” he says.
Chase’s heart sank as he heard how her son, an excellent student and top-notch athlete, had become ill, and the doctors had diagnosed cancer. But then the woman’s son—happy and healthy—emerged from a back room.
“They were going home, and it was for free. That’s all it took,” Chase says. “How do you not jump behind the lifesaving miracle called St. Jude? It is the most incredible thing I ever have been or will be a part of.”
Although he has visited St. Jude many times, Chase says, “That one-day trip did it for me. St. Jude is part of my DNA now.”
Country Cares for St. Jude Kids was launched in 1989 after Randy Owen, lead singer of the legendary group ALABAMA, answered St. Jude founder Danny Thomas’ request to support the hospital. Since then, more than 200 radio stations nationwide have helped raise more than $480 million for the kids of St. Jude. Many country music artists, including Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, Chris Young and John Rich, have supported Country Cares through hospital visits, recorded appeals and event appearances.
Chase has been involved in Country Cares since 1990, and his commitment to St. Jude carries special significance because cancer has touched several people in his life, including his father, grandmother and wife, as well as his mother, who is currently receiving cancer treatment.
He applauds his station’s dedication to the St. Jude mission. “God has put it on the conscience of this radio station. It’s what we do. We are fortunate to be able to do a number of events for St. Jude throughout the year,” Chase says.
Mac Edwards, market manager for WKML, says, “The cause and the purpose of St. Jude speak to the heart of not only us as broadcast professionals but as family members and members of the community.”
The station’s entrance boasts a St. Jude “wall of fame” decorated with patient artwork and plaques recognizing WKML’s years of dedication to the radiothon.
“Yes, we play country music,” Chase says. “But we are a St. Jude radio station.”
Abridged from Promise, Winter 2014