For this Wisconsin volunteer, every February and March means it's time for St. Jude radiothons

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  •  10 min

United States of St. Jude - Wisconsin - Julie Wurl and Randy "Shotgun" Shannon

Julie Wurl and Y100 DJ Randy “Shotgun” Shannon

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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — It all started more than 20 years ago when Y100 air personality Randy “Shotgun” Shannon of Green Bay, Wisconsin, saw something in Julie Wurl she didn’t see in herself.

That day, she’d been working at her job at an adult oncology center in Appleton, Wisconsin, with the radio tuned to the Y100 WNCY Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® Radiothon.

Julie, whose work included patient intake, heard stories of children affected by cancer and, “Of course, I’m bawling my eyes out. But I’m working at a cancer center, so it’s not exactly the most appropriate place to be crying, but the stories were so moving.”

After she got off work, she went to the bank, got money out, drove to the mall in Appleton where they were broadcasting and donated $240 on the spot. She also signed up to become a Partner in Hope®, a monthly St. Jude donor.

Shotgun, who recognized her from another event, came and said, “You should work these radiothons.”

“And I told him he was crazy because I’m bawling my eyes out.”

Anywhere for St. Jude

Today, Julie organizes the volunteers for the Y100 WNCY Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® Radiothon in Green Bay, as well as St. Jude radiothons in Wausau, Sheboygan and Milwaukee.

“Everybody knows, when it comes to February and March, every other week, I am doing a radiothon,” said Julie.

Getting there requires driving through central and southeastern Wisconsin during dark, inhospitable months with frigid temperatures and too much snow, except to her.

If you’re looking for beauty, as she does, you find it. Even here, on the highways of America’s Dairyland in winter. Especially here.

See the way the moon beams off the snow and lights up everything at night? Julie does.

See the bonfire improbably lit in the center of the frozen lake? It’s like magic.

Expectancy gives everything a glow.

This is Julie’s vacation. She has her St. Jude radiothon time off stipulated in the work contract of her employer in Madison, Wisconsin, and she spends a lot of it driving.

Past rolling hills blanketed with snow; past ice shanties; past sugar maple, yellow birch and white pine; past one lone farmhouse with two flags flying: the American one and the Green Bay Packers one; past suburban homes with holiday lights still up (they’ll come down once it thaws).

An ice storm makes her car skitter and slide, and suddenly, from nowhere, a white-tailed deer dashes across the road and leaves her heart thumping.

“Every radiothon season we joke about what Mother Nature is going to throw at us,” said Julie, who grew up in Green Bay and whose parents still live there.

But Julie will go anywhere for St. Jude.

Besides, there’s nothing like that feeling when she turns the dial to the station she’s traveling to, and it goes from fuzz to clear and crisp and she hears a voice she recognizes — a friend on the other end of the dial.

She’s almost there. It’s almost time.

Everything counts

She’s touched by the people who give, like the teenager who chops wood every year and donates the money he makes from the work.

Or the little girl who collected change from her neighbors and brought it to the station in a water jug.

“And I looked at that going, ‘They are not going to ask me to count that. Please don’t ask me to count that.’ And [they] immediately went, ‘Julie, can you count this?’ And I just went, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It took us four hours to count that jug, but that little girl raised almost $700 in loose change and dollar bills.

At the end of every radiothon, she and the other volunteers — her “St. Jude family” as she calls them — want to drop from exhaustion until the DJs take the stage and announce the grand total.

It’s been more than 20 years, and that we-did-it-again feeling never gets old.

She'll be back next year.

“You can’t put a price on a child’s life. Everything counts. We can really get farther than we ever expect if every person gives a little. That’s all it takes.”

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