Radiothon raises more than $100,000 for Shands Hospital for Children at UF

Jamie Lawry watches daughter Alexia Jamerson paint an alligator during the annual Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon for Kids at the Shands at UF Atrium. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Radio personalities, Miss Florida, pediatric patients, faculty, staff and community members took over the Shands at the University of Florida atrium and local airwaves Tuesday, raising more than $100,000 to help sick and injured children at Shands Hospital for Children at UF.

The annual Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon for Kids was broadcast live on radio stations KTK 98.5, The SKY 97.3, Country 103.7 The Gator, and ESPN 850, culminating six weeks of online fundraising efforts. This new approach to the annual event — combining online and traditional phone bank fundraising — proved a success. It raised nearly $105,000, a figure that was almost $5,000 higher than this year’s goal, and represented $1 for each pediatric patient seen at the hospital last fiscal year.

“This was a new way of doing the radiothon, and it seemed to be bigger and better as a result,” said Shelley Collins, pediatric hospital medicine division chief and Children’s Miracle Network radiothon team captain. “Children’s Miracle Network is a cause that is near and dear to our own hearts as faculty and physicians, and it is so important that we get involved. The funds raised are used every day. We see it firsthand.”

Collins and her team raised more than $1,200 through a pre-radiothon physical fitness boot camp held the weekend before the on-air broadcast.

The energy level was high Tuesday as children and families filled the atrium to support a cause that has touched their lives. Volunteers busily answered ringing red phones as outpatients and inpatients took turns sharing their emotional stories over the radio. Around them, children in high spirits jumped from activity table to activity table, playing Wii Fit video games and painting pictures of animals, country landscapes and more in shades of red, yellow, green, blue and other bright colors.

Volunteers answered red phones during the annual Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon for Kids to benefit Shands Hospital for Children at UF. Photp by Jesse S. Jones

After telling his favorite jokes on air and amusing attendees in the atrium, 4-year-old Nathan Ferrell, who is being treated at Shands Hospital for Children for a degenerative disease that can hinder growth and weaken the body’s energy supply, showed off his very best imitation of former UF football player Tim Tebow. Fourteen-year-old Cristobal Serrano, who has a disease in which the body’s self-defense mechanism attacks food rather than digests it, brought a lot of smiles into the room as he flaunted his favorite dance moves in front of Shands staff and friends. Shands caregivers poured into the Atrium, eagerly awaiting the final results of their fundraising efforts.

“You just don’t realize the behind-the-scenes work that the different departments within the hospital do,” said Amber Ferrell, Nathan’s mother. “Of course you see the love and care for kids while they are in the hospital, but you don’t realize the extent of their involvement. Several staff members give of their time and money just to raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network. The love and devotion given by the pediatric department is humbling.”

When the final tally was announced at 7 p.m., broad smiles and cheers erupted from the crowd of disc jockeys, community and staff members.

“It is just spectacular when you look around the lobby and see an army of people dedicated to our pediatric patients – the parents, sick kids and volunteers, all of whom are unselfishly giving of their time for this tremendous cause,” said Scott Rivkees, M.D., chair of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine. “It epitomizes so many great things about the community, but mostly the dedication to our kids. We can’t do it alone — we need the community to help grow and take care of our kids day after day.”