Even after eleven years, the annual SAY Detroit Radiothon can still surprise you! 

December 09, 2022

Whether it was running well past 9 pm to welcome one last scheduled guest, donors voting with their dollars for host Mitch Albom to shave off his pandemic goatee, or raising enough to watch it be shaved by a professional barber live on air, this year’s event promised and delivered on memorable moments. 

The event welcomed Detroit friends near and far, including Dave Coulier, Hugh Jackman, Tim Allen, J.K. Simmons, Dr. Phil, Hoda Kotb, Anderson Cooper, Jane Pauley, Dave Barry, Lily Tomlin, Scott Hamilton, Hank Azaria, Paul Stanley, Alice Cooper, Sawyer Fredericks, Maria Shriver, Brad Whitford, Otis Williams, Ernie Johnson Jr., Lomas Brown, Tom Izzo, Barry Sanders, Jarod Goff, Dave Bing, Bernie Smilovitz and Carmen Harlan, Desmond Howard, Devin Scillian and Kimberly Gill and Evrod Cassimy — and more!

It also welcomed the voices of those served by SAY Detroit, its staff who are hard at work in the city every day, and some of its collaborators in the community. The SAY Detroit Family Health Clinic offers so much more than primary care to the tens of thousands of patients it has cared for in Highland Park and wider Detroit area. It’s about making its surrounding community healthy as a whole. One of its newest services is offering a behavioral health specialist. Covid-19’s impact is still being felt, and the need is so great, appointment wait time is several weeks. 

Better Together program coordinator Darryl Woods shared how, at the end of the program’s second year, law enforcement and citizen attendees from our some of the very first grilling events have stayed in contact. Don Tulski, President of the nationally-renowned College for Creative Studies made clear the impact of the Dream Scholars scholarship: “Without this program these students couldn’t attend art design school and contribute to the greater good through art and design.” Funds raised from last year’s Radiothon provided a scholarship to an incoming freshman, Davon Travier, an aspiring photography student. (You can view some of his work below). 

Harry Parker, a former enlisted Marine who benefitted from the services of the Michigan Veterans Foundation — a longtime recipient of radiothon funding efforts — is now working full-time for the organization helping other veterans. Founder of the longtime partner at Cass Community Social Services and an annual guest, Rev. Faith Fowler opened up about the realities on the ground in its homeless shelters: they are at overflow capacity. Many are working, but cannot find affordable housing. They’re also seeing more families and more children in their shelters.

But Thursday’s event showed us that despite the challenges, the kids are, indeed, alright. Mila “Meatloaf” Dawson, 9, is a BMX rider who just ranked 14th in her age group in the whole country. She’s also a philanthropist! Our Mi-Cycle Director Chuck Nagy sponsors her through his zine, Heavy Pedals, and introduced her to SAY Detroit. She really really loves that we give families housing and it touched her so much that she wants to help — she drove all the way from Indiana to give us a check for $360, earned from her commissions from her signature t-shirts. She’s giving away all of her earnings from shirt sales at saymeatloaf.com to SAY Detroit.

Mila isn’t the only entrepreneur philanthropist. Our very own SAY Play students spent the summer designing t-shirts and a marketing plan during their six-week entrepreneurship program, made by possible by a gift from Platinum Equity founder and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores. These designs are now on sale as official apparel at pistons313shop.com, and all proceeds also go to SAY Detroit. The impact on new student Levarius is obvious when you learn of his ambitions in this clip:

This year, Tom Gores announced a $350,000 commitment to SAY Detroit, which includes funding earmarked to create a new media center and production studio at SAY Play. He may even touch a media course there. Read more about this incredible gift here. Their talent was also on display as they put together a special remix in thanks to frequent Radiothon supporter, Hugh Jackman!

The 2020 Radiothon first introduced us to Albom’s pandemic facial hair, which finally came to an end with what might be the world’s most expensive — and generous — shave. With a promise to “free Mitch’s face” if a goal of $30,000 was reached, the challenge was issued and met! By 6pm, Rocco Maggio of Rocco’s Barber Shop in Chesterfield, MI was on stage and doing his master work.

While an on-air shave was new, the honored traditions of presenting the families who received a house during the Working Homes / Working Families program returned once again. A cascading series of events — including job loss and rental assistance that came too late — brought Celest Laurry and her her teenaged daughters Rahmyza, 16, and Rahmani, 14 (a SAY Play student) to a shelter. Albom first shared her experience with homelessness in this column in the Detroit Free Press, but a home was soon made available to them.

Across town, SAY Detroit partnered with LA SED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Inc.), non-profit agency serving Hispanics and residents of Southwest Detroit since 1969, to refurbish a home for The Alvarado family. They are deepening roots in their community while continuing to receive financial literacy assistance as they learn about responsible home ownership.

This day of joy and giving, of traditions old and new, would not be possible without the incredible generosity of our volunteers, our sponsors, and our donors. The annual Radiothon promises all-day radio for better days in Detroit. The moving and empowering stories shared delivers on the hope that better days are ahead, through your help.

Follow along in 2023 as we put this generosity to work!