Among the skills and talents, I learned later in life is the importance of constantly planting seeds. You do not need to be a farmer, nor even a gardener, though I have developed some abilities towards the latter over the past decade.
Beyond life's midpoint, I periodically assess, with the time given me remaining, where can I try and make the most favorable impact. Where can we do the most good? And I am happy to report, that in at least a few prior instances, there are a few seeds to be proud of...
One of the nation's largest and most successful radio stations, WSB, then only AM750, was casting about for an annual philanthropic project to support, which would become a community touchstone, and help the lives of thousands. One of the voices guiding that decision was a close friend and broadcaster named Scott Slade, host of Atlanta's Morning News, then and now, one of the nation's consistently highest rated drive-time morning shows.
Slade discussed along with then fellow station anchors and hosts Neal Boortz and consumer expert, Clark Howard, the cause most worthy of the support of a station then referred to as The 50,000 Watt Blow-Torch. WSB listeners were loyal and longtime, and at night the AM signal often would reach out to truckers heading south from as far away as Boston. Each talent had a pet cause, worthy of support. But I knew that my friend Mr. Slade was someone who generally spoke softly, and not all that frequently, and that his support might well carry the day.
We also had a special seed planter and pollinator in our own family, Shaye Sauers Kilby, a multiple brain cancer survivor from early childhood. The Brain Tumor Foundation for Children was in part created to honor Shaye, and though their symbol is a butterfly, I have often thought of Shaye more as a bumblebee. If you are not familiar the laws of physics say that a bumblebee cannot fly. Its small wings are not broad or strong enough to carry the mass of its body, and yet somehow the world's gardens, plants, and seedlings still get pollinated.
I had witnessed, during Shaye's medical traumas and treatments, what a relatively happy and safe space the folks at CHOA had created. Another witness to this miracle of sorts was Aflac CEO Dan Amos, who made a lead gift of $5-million to what would be renamed the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Service Center at CHOA. I arranged a tour for Brother Slade of the Egleston AFLAC Cancer Center, where he was able to see for himself the happy place with little bald warriors scooting around with their IV pole in tow, or the play area for siblings available nearby, while parents focused on their ailing child.
Slade was inspired by his visit and convinced his colleagues and the even bigger radio franchise, now WSB 95.5 FM/750 AM to devote 37 hours of airtime each summer towards a care-a-thon for this cause. And WSB listeners responded, as do Georgia businesses and the families of many prior treatment patients.
Donors last year poured in more than $1.7 million into what has become CHOA's largest annual fundraiser. This will be year 20, and the aggregate sum raised to date is well in excess of $20-million towards pediatric cancer treatment and research.
Former and current patients are occasional guest hosts, along with WSB's well-known talent roster. Guests as varied as President George W. Bush, or his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush (who both lost a daughter and younger sister to pediatric cancer) along with professional athletes of every field and stripe, Georgia Governors and Senators and a few mystery guests all dial-in or contribute. During the last few hours in drive-time, Dan Amos and his wife, Kathelen Amos typically double the final hours of fundraising, tipping in several hundred thousand more dollars to help and bring each Care-a-thon to a successful close.
This year of 2020 has been hard on many of us, but for kids fighting cancer it has been even harder as their compromised immune systems have largely limited their existence to home and hospital visits and their families are also not immune to either COVID19 or the economic realities brought on by this pandemic.
This year the Care-a-thon will be reaching out again on Thursday, July 30 and Friday, July 31st. The need has never been greater. If you listen in at wsbradio.com during the Care-a-thon, there will be multiple opportunities to have your gift doubled or tripled, just head to choa.org during those hours and magnify the impact of your gift. No gift is too small. Now I’m heading back out to plant a few more seeds.