Kevin Howard and Liz Delany were more than just the radio voices behind Springfield’s Hungerthon and Boobapalooza fundraisers – they created them.
Little did they know the fundraisers benefitting Ozarks Food Harvest Inc. and Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks would raise over $2 million combined in the 21-year span of “The Kevin and Liz Show.”
“Those two fundraisers were really our babies,” Delany said. “It was sometimes unbelievable the outpouring of support we got from the Ozarks.”
The future of those fundraisers are now in question.
The longtime disc jockeys were laid off Jan. 15 from 105.9 KGBX-FM – local casualties, along with DJ George Spankmeister of KXUS-FM, in a national restructuring by station owner iHeartMedia Inc. (Nasdaq: IHRT). The San Antonio, Texas-based radio conglomerate filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2018 and exited proceedings in May 2019, cutting debt to $5.8 billion from $16 billion, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
The iHeartMedia job cuts were widespread, according to published media reports. Company officials declined to comment on the specific number of layoffs nationwide, but a provided statement indicated it was small compared with the company’s overall employee count of 12,500. IHeartMedia controls more than 800 radio stations, including local FM stations US97, Alice 95.5 and The Wolf 100.5, as well as Fox Sports 1400 AM.
Officials declined to comment on the number of job cuts in the Springfield market.
Delany and Howard co-hosted the radio show for 21 years between runs on Alice and KGBX.
The biggest beneficiary of their fundraising was Ozarks Food Harvest. Over those two decades, the annual Hungerthon weekend radio fundraiser raised over $2.1 million for the food bank’s backpack program, said Ozarks Food Harvest President and CEO Bart Brown. The nonprofit’s program sends food home with over 1,600 at-risk schoolchildren for every weekend of the school year.
Howard said Hungerthon was an idea of his and Delany to lend a hand to the nonprofit’s efforts of ending hunger in the Ozarks.
“It was the vehicle to spread the word,” he said. “We’d publicize it weeks ahead of time and, of course, it was a four-day event during the year.”
The 21st annual Hungerthon in September 2019 raised a record $156,564 – a huge jump from the $12,500 raised in year one.
The nonprofit’s annual budget for its backpack program is roughly $500,000, Brown said. The four-day Hungerthon represents a quarter of the annual goal.
“There’s no words we have to express our appreciation to Kevin and Liz and KGBX for giving us all this time to encourage people to donate,” Brown said. “We have a generation of children that have grown up with us raising money for that, and they’re giving money now.”
Brown said the nonprofit also uses direct-mail campaigns, online fundraisers and in-person asks for the backpack program.
“The beauty of this was that it was a unique audience that came together once a year,” Brown said of Hungerthon. “We had people (in 2019) that had all 21 years of T-shirts at home. There were so many people that would come to see Kevin and Liz and give money because they had that connection.”
Last year also marked the 21st year of Boobapalooza – an annual breakfast event that raised awareness for breast cancer and funding for BCFO.
BCFO president and CEO Joe Daues said Howard and Delany were the driving forces and creators of Boobapalooza. BCFO used the event to spread the word about breast cancer, new treatments and options for families impacted.
“I know women who’ve contacted me after listening to Boobapalooza, or being a part of it, who then discovered their own breast cancer simply by being reminded to check,” Delany said.
The funds raised were secondary, officials say. In total, Boobapalooza generated $50,300 for the nonprofit over the years, said Daues. BCFO’s projected 2020 budget is $1.4 million, according to past SBJ reporting.
“There’s no way you can measure the goodwill and the awareness that those two brought to breast cancer in the Ozarks through their show,” Daues said.
Nonprofit officials say they anticipate the audience Howard and Delany attracted would continue to support the fundraisers.
However, it’s unknown at Ozarks Food Harvest what the backpack program fundraising will look like in 2020.
“There’s not an option for us to cut back on the program,” Brown said. “Just because that show has gone away, there are people that still want to help.”
Daues said that BCFO, which hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, is hopeful to continue Boobapalooza with iHeartMedia, though specifics have not been determined.
“The impact of those events will be felt for decades to come because we literally were able to change the trajectory of a child’s life through Hungerthon,” Delany said. “It really breaks my heart to think that I won’t be a part of that anymore.”
Clint “Girlie” Gerlek, program director and a local DJ at iHeartMedia, said the company plans to continue supporting local charities and nonprofits.
“We are reaching out and working with all of our partners who were connected with previous hosts and current hosts,” said Gerlek of Alice 95.5. “If we need to change the way those [fundraisers] look or sound, we’re going to do it.”
Gerlek declined further comment on the restructuring.
Howard and Delany both said they’re looking for their next opportunity.
“I plan on staying in Springfield and working on the radio,” Howard said. “If we can do that as ‘The Kevin and Liz Show,’ that’s what we’re going to do.”
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