BY Mike Fletcher
Knowing there are children less fortunate than he, 4-year-old Ryan Redman decided to donate some of his toys to We Care Saturday.
“I have a ball and a movie and my tool bench,” young Ryan said, as he held a few toys in his hand.
Asked what made him give up his toys, Ryan said it was “because some people don’t have stuff.”
That generosity is what has made We Care thrive for the past 40 years.
“He was so willing,” his mother, Nicky, said of Ryan giving up his toys.
“This is our first year to donate,” she said. “They said they needed stuff and we cleaned out some stuff and brought it up here.”
For the first time in its 40 years, the announcers of WWKI’s We Care telethon said they were running out of items to auction off prompting the call for more donations.
By 2 p.m., the community started answering that call as cars and trucks lined the small parking lot outside the radio station dropping off items.
Ted Longfellow pulled up with two TV’s, a chair and a coffee table to donate.
“I watch it every year and try to donate what I can,” he said. “It’s for a good cause.”
Wade Ryan, 7, brought in a box full of toys including his baseball glove.
“It didn’t mean anything to me anymore,” he said of the toys. “I should have brought my bat too.”
Kris and Sean Quartermus of Timeless Pieces Antiques got into the spirit of giving by donating a 1950s Coke tin and $500 gift certificates, along with other items.
“It feels good,” Kris said. “It’s been going on for 40 years and I’m 45 so I grew up with We Care. It’s fun to be able to give especially with the shop.”
As of 1 p.m., We Care raised $55,525.53, up from last year’s total during the same time of $49,309.12. As of 5 p.m., the charity raised $66,487.53.
Jim Long, a veteran volunteer, said this morning donations were slim, but by midday donations started filling the tent.
“It started out slow, but as the day went on it really picked up,” he said. “Kokomo is a very giving community. I love working here because it’s like a family.”
Rynne Watson and Annette Jarvis were on their way out of the building after purchasing some items through the auction.
“We watched it on TV every year,” said Rynne.
“I have to get some stuff for my husband or he’ll kick me out,” laughed Annette.
“It’s for a good charity and it’s a good way to celebrate Christmas,” she added.
Knives, dolls, NASCAR memorabilia, Christmas ornaments, furniture, quilts, sports gear and cookbooks remained popular with donors and buyers.
The Hope Doll, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, will go up for auction toward the end of the auction today.
The annual fund-raiser relies on donations of items from the community to be auctioned off to raise money.
The charity has raised hundreds of thousands each year and made national headlines in the 1990s, when it raised more than a half a million dollars.
The brainchild of the late Dick Bronson, former radio voice of WWKI, the fund-raiser began on a small scale. Bronson founded We Care in 1973 after a laid-off autoworker called the radio station to ask for some help in providing a Christmas for his family. That year, the charity raised $1,100.
With the help from people like Jan Buechler, formerly known as “We Care Jan” and Bronson’s sidekick, Charlie Cropper, We Care flourished into one of the largest Christmas-oriented fundraisers in the country.
The money is divided among the Kokomo Rescue Mission, Mental Health Association, Bona Vista, the Salvation Army and the Kokomo Tribune-sponsored Goodfellows.
The telethon continues until 6 p.m. today and can be watch on Comcast Cable Channel 3. Viewers can also listen on WWKI radio and on the internet through a live web stream at www.wwki.com.