News host Bill Wills and sportscaster Casey Coleman of Newsradio WTAM 1100 keep many Clevelanders company on their long, harrowing commutes. But the upbeat pair do a lot more than bring listeners news, weather, traffic and sports updates weekday mornings from 5 to 9. Like many other personalities on Clear Channel Communications radio stations, they're committed to helping Cleveland-area charities achieve their goals.
"If you're really part of your community, this is what you do," Coleman says. "You don't get rich, you get enriched."
Coleman runs an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at a homeless shelter on Lakeside Avenue and works closely with groups at the Metzenbaum Home, offering classes for women who have lost their children due to addiction. He's been working with Recovery Resources for four years, helping people suffering from substance abuse and mental illness regain their lives. He's also working toward becoming a certified chemical dependency counselor.
"Addiction doesn't discriminate," Coleman says, "and the nonprofits are in a world of hurt. The need gets greater and there are fewer places to get help."
Recovery Resources, celebrating its 50th anniversary, helped 6,000 people in the area last year. "These people are saving lives," Coleman says. "It's beautiful to see a mother and child reunited, to give someone a life back."
Wills, meanwhile, chairs the WTAM-run Coats For Kids campaign, the station's signature charity, which collected more than 20,000 coats and raised $60,000 in 2003.
Wills says he feels that his high-profile job comes with a responsibility to help charities. "People are helpful, but sometimes they don't know the need," he says. "I can be a megaphone."
Coats For Kids collects coats from early November through Dec. 28. At the end of the campaign, Wills and Coleman broadcast from the distribution center and Wills talks on air with members of the Salvation Army about the needs Clevelanders face.
Wills is also on the boards of the Salvation Army and the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. His "Bill's Blood Drives" had the goal of collecting "1,100 pints to save 1,100 lives" in 2004. "We always need blood and donations," he notes. For the Salvation Army board, Wills focuses on fund-raising and networking. "If everyone put 50 cents into a Salvation Army kettle," he says, "we'd have a few million dollars."
Other Clear Channel personalities active in charity work include Brian Fowler and Joe Cronauer of WMVX Mix 106.5 FM's "Brian and Joe Show." They run an annual Rainbow Radiothon to raise funds for Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. Last August, the three-day event raised $304,000.
Jimmy Malone of WMJI Majic 105.7 FM holds his annual Celebrity Golf Classic golf outing to support the Cleveland Scholarship Program for Cleveland's kids. The 2004 outing raised $115,000.
Hunter Scott of WMMS 100.7 FM's morning team has a different sort of fund-raising strategy: He locked himself in a coffin for 48 hours with only an air supply to raise money for Project Act, which helps children who are homeless or in transitional housing. The Cleveland newcomer raised $14,000.
The radio personalities we know so well are committed to improving the city through the spirit of giving. "Cleveland has given me so much," says Coleman, "and I'm just trying to give something back. What I do at WTAM is my job and what I do for Recovery Resources is my work."