Stay tuned: Retro Radiothon kicks off Friday to raise $1 million for IW

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


There?s no road map for Retro Radiothon on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University this weekend.

In fact, Meg Richtman, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, is trying not to over plan the 40-hour event, knowing that much of what will take place will be momentum occurring organically through generous donations and the region and Iowa Wesleyan?s (IW) local and global community joining together.

The goal of the Retro Radiothon is to raise $1 million in 40 hours for the university to honor the anniversary of the radiothon 40 years ago that raised money for the Mapleleaf Athletic Complex.

The original radiothon was a grass roots community-funded project organized by former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife Christie. After several bond issues failed to pass in Mt. Pleasant that would provide funding to build the Mapleleaf Athletic Complex, Tom helped work with community leaders at the time to organize a fundraising event in town partnered with KILJ.

?It really was because of the high school kids and Tom?s leadership that they raised that $200,000 over the weekend,? Christie said, which far exceeded their $100,000 goal.

Tom said that now IW?s Retro Radiothon has the opportunity to remind people what they have the capacity to do when they come together as a community and focus on young people.

The Vilsack?s will be coming into town Thursday and working with IW?s president Steve Titus in reaching out to potential donors to ?convince them there?s a good news story occurring on the university campus and it?s important to southeast Iowa to be supportive of the momentum the university has built,? Tom said.

Tom and Christie have personal reasons for supporting the IW community. For Christie, Mt. Pleasant is her hometown. It?s also the place she and Tom raised their children. Christie is also a trustee of the university.

?As I was growing up, my dad always told me I was fortunate to be born in a town that had a college,? Christie said. ?It really made a huge difference in my life with the opportunity as a child to come into contact with people of many cultures around the world because there?s always foreign students attending.?

Growing up in Mt. Pleasant, Christie said that because of IW she had the opportunity to experience a symphony as a child, took classes on campus, and has seen the way it enriches the community and the southeast Iowa region.

Especially with the recent report of the $55 million economic impact IW brings to the region, Christie said it?s important for the community to help take the university to the next level.

In addition to Retro Radiothon being promoted and sponsored by KILJ, Christie said social media is a modern way to do what they did 40 years ago.

?The only media we had was radio, and it was certainly viral in the community, but not so much outside of the community,? Tom said. ?Here, we have social media to reach out to 12,000 alumni,? he said, while also voicing his appreciation to owner of KILJ Paul Dennison, General Manager John Kuhens and News Director Theresa Rose.

IW will certainly be tapping into their alumni network this weekend with the Alumni Decade Competition. When an alumni gives a gift during Retro Radiothon, it will be applied to the decade they graduated from. The university is encouraging former students to challenge each other so they can have bragging rights as the winning decade, which will be announced at the conclusion of the radiothon.

Retro Radiothon kicks off Friday at 6:30 p.m. with a launch party. Everyone will have the opportunity to help kickoff the event when KILJ goes live with the radiothon at 7 p.m. that night. Richtman encourages people to stay tuned all weekend because a lot of airtime will be letting people know what?s coming next.

From there, IW students will keep the party going with an all-nighter from midnight to 8 a.m. ?We?ve got to keep this going. That?s where the students will carry us through,? Richtman said.

In the morning, the community is invited back to join in an 8 a.m. yoga challenge to kick off the day. From there, brunch will be served during The DP Challenge. Dolores ?DP? Graf Pulter Wilson has served the university for 55 years as a faculty member.

The challenge was named in her honor as the longest-serving faculty member and to recognize all other dedicated faculty and staff. At this time, the community will be encouraged to make a gift in honor or memory of someone who impacted them at the university.

An added incentive at this time will be a vacation trip give-a-away ? seven days at any Wyndham resort in the U.S. While the winner will be responsible for their own travel, the hotel stay is free.

Other activities include a benefit concert by Jake McVey, who is originally from the region. Following that is See the World Challenge, an event that highlights IW?s students who represent 29 countries worldwide.

A group of students from Napoli will be performing Saturday at 4 p.m. There also will be a group of African American students doing a stomp dance, a traditional dance where performers use their hands and feet to create music. Australian students will be demonstrating soccer tricks.

?(Students) are passionate about and wanting to show their culture,? Richtman said, adding that at this time they will be interviewing a number of students on air, as well as international alumni who want to tell their stories.

After the See the World Challenge, Rubble Arena will be turned into a carnival of sorts for The Tiger Games. The goal at this time is to raise $75,000.

?Essentially, we?re calling on our former student athletes to meet the challenge to call in, text, or give online between 5 and 9 p.m. (Saturday),? Athletic Director Derek Zander said.

Following The Tiger Games will be a Tiger Dance-A-Thon. Activities wrap up at noon on Sunday for a Retro Radiothon sign off and celebration.

Christie wants to remind people that they don?t have to give a large gift for it to make a difference. At the last radiothon, she recalled children bringing in their piggy banks and businesses doing various small-scale fundraisers to generate a little money.

?Everyone come out, get online and find it in their hearts to give IW their support,? she said.

When asked how many people she expects to come through IW?s doors this weekend, Richtman said she has no idea. ?It?s actually kind of nerve wracking because you don?t know if anyone?s going to show up or if thousands are going to show up,? she said. ?We can handle any level and are hoping people come and engage in listening, going online, watching livestreaming and helping us spread the word.?

All events take place in the Rubble Arena on IW?s campus. To donate, you can text 41444 with your name and the amount donated, call 319-385-6221, or go online to