Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018
Retro Radiothon: ‘For future generations’

Saturday’s late-season winter storm didn’t hamper donations for Retro Radiothon

Mar 26, 2018
Photo by: Grace King IW student athletes lead The Tiger Games Saturday afternoon in Rubble Arena.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


While the winter storm on Saturday may have kept people away from venturing to Ruble Arena for Retro Radiothon this weekend, it didn’t hamper the generosity of those tuning in to KILJ and on social media.

Although the 40-hour fundraiser kicked off by broadcasting over KILJ on Friday, March 23, at 7 p.m., the real fun began a few hours later when Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) students flooded the gym to carry the party throughout the night and into Saturday, which held its own host of events.

As KILJ announced the official start of Retro Radiothon, key players were invited on stage including owners of KILJ Paul and Joyce Dennison, former Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife Christie Vilsack and IW President Steve Titus and his wife Sara Titus.

On stage, Tom said he remembered fondly what the community did 40 years ago as they raised $200,000 — double than what was asked for — for Mapleleaf Athletic Complex. Then just like now, it was about the young people of the community.

“The reason I got so involved was because my first two and a half years in Mt. Pleasant, I didn’t have a name,” said the former governor whose wife Christie was born and raised in Mt. Pleasant. “I got on KILJ … (and it) was the thing that gave me an incredible life. I wouldn’t have been mayor, governor or (U.S.) Secretary of Agriculture. The reason I’m here today is incredibly personal,” Tom said.

Retro Radiothon was also an incredibly personal event for Christie, who not only grew up in Mt. Pleasant, but has spent the past 45 years as an educator and sits on the IW board of trustees.

“(Education) is the solution to everything,” Christie said. “This community helped raise me. I want to make sure that continues for future generations.”

As KILJ General Manager John Kuhens and News Director Theresa Rose got the ball rolling with 20 interviews from IW students, faculty and people impacted by the university prerecorded and numerous interviews slotted throughout the weekend, people wasted no time donating in person, calling in or donating online.

Half an hour into the radiothon, over $100,000 had already been raised. Christie, who was sitting at the table with Kuhens and Rose for much of the on-air time, was fearless in calling out Al and Melinda Huisinga, the latter of whom she graduated with, to pledge $5,000 to get the fundraiser started. The agreement was if the Huisinga’s donated, so would the Vilsack’s.

“Certainly, you’re on!” Melinda shouted from the crowd Friday night.

Dennison was quick to add to the challenge — offering to donate $10,000 if the Huisinga’s and Vilsack’s both upped their donation to $10,000.

That’s how the weekend continued — with community members, IW alumni and various Greek groups egging each other on to increase their donations.

Even other universities were involved. Christie said that she and Tom visited with Wallace Loh, the president of the University of Maryland, last week and spoke with him about the difference IW makes in this region. As president of one of the most diverse universities in the country and an IW Board of Trustee member, Christie said that Loh is compelled by the diversity on IW’s campus as well.

Loh spoke highly of IW and Mt. Pleasant, having attended IW as a freshman. He told Christie he felt at home here as he made a significant pledge to Retro Radiothon.

As the evening came to a close, Rose said that she began to feel the exhaustion around midnight. The students’ energy renewed her as they took over with the Purple Pajama Party.

“They were so full of energy. It was a noticeable change,” Rose said, adding they played board games, spike ball, dodgeball and sack races, to name a few. “It was a really fun atmosphere,” she said.

Students were interviewed by Rose on KILJ one after the other throughout the night, she said. The consensus was clear: IW felt like home to them, with all she spoke to planning on staying for all four years of their studies.

“If we lose this place … we’re in big trouble if we lose this place,” Rose said. “We better support it.”

Coordinator of Student Engagement Matt Klundt said that while students were in and out throughout the night, at its peak, there were over 100 students in Ruble Arena participating in the all-nighter. Even Titus stayed, playing dodgeball and challenging students to various games.

The morning opened with Director of Career Development Katherine Evans leading yoga at 8 a.m. As the rain pattered the roof and windows, the 20 participants began the day relaxed before heading into the DP Challenge Brunch.

The DP Challenge was named in honor of Dolores Poulter (DP) Wilson, who has served as a faculty member at IW for 55 years. The morning was dedicated to challenging people to make a donation in honor or memory of a faculty, staff member or friend at IW they were impacted by.

Wilson, who also stayed up with students from midnight to 8 a.m. and was still going strong Saturday afternoon, said that to be a part of Retro Radiothon was a fantastic experience.

Wilson, who celebrated the university’s 125th, 150th, and even the 175th reunion that was just last year, said, “When President Titus came around (five years ago), I said I’m going to be here for the 200th reunion. That’s going to make me a little old, over 100 years old, but I’m hoping to get there.

“What IW is attempting to do is make a better world for now and the future,” Wilson continued. “I thank God every day I have the privilege of working, teaching and designing programs.”

The party picked up again at noon when southeast Iowa native Jake McVey took the stage for a benefit concert. Following that, international students performed during the “See the World” challenge before student-athletes took the arena for The Tiger Games.

Student-athletes who helped lead games of target golf, basketball, football toss and IW memory along with various other games all volunteered to help out with Retro Radiothon and engage with the youth in Mt. Pleasant.

“Every kid has a goal of being a college athlete,” said Derek Zander, IW athletic director. “They get to live it a little through our athletes.”

For freshman football player Trent Paschal, getting to interact with the kids in Mt. Pleasant was one of the greatest joys of the weekend. As a physical education major, Paschal hopes to be a coach someday. “It’s awesome watching little kids put (IW) jerseys on, football helmets, be active,” he said. “Great to see people want to help out the university.”

To close out Tiger Games Saturday, everyone was encouraged to play a massive game of knockout on the basketball court, with some of the youth from Mt. Pleasant even getting out the older IW student athletes.

With nine events in 24 hours, Meg Richtman, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, was proud of her team of people who seamlessly pulled it off.

After many at Ruble Arena pulling an all-nighter from Friday and staying for Retro Radiothon activities throughout the day Saturday, the night ended at midnight Saturday after the Tiger Dance-a-Thon.

As the radiothon drew to a close Sunday, Richtman was overwhelmed by the generosity of people in the community and around the world, with the university having received one donation all the way from China earlier that morning.

While waiting to see if they accomplished their goal of $1 million by 2 p.m. Sunday was stressful, Richtman said, as they closed out the ceremony she finally was able to relax. “I’m super stoked,” she said.

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