Radiothon Fundraiser for DJ Polly Robbins
Sometimes, listening to the radio or watching TV, we feel pole-axed by the huge world we live in, and the enormity of its problems. From Pakistan, to Darfur, to the harsh poverty – both urban and rural – that challenges us right here in our own country, it seems sometimes there’s nothing but sadness out there. And then, something happens that brings us back to earth – our personal little piece of earth. I had one of those moments a few weeks ago.
In November, I heard about a last-minute fundraiser being thrown together for a local radio personality, a 30-year-old woman who’s dying of breast cancer. Yes, 30. Pauline Robbins was diagnosed at age 28. Too young. WAY too young. Polly's radio colleagues at 99Rock and at 20 other area stations decided they wanted to honor this well-loved member of their community by having an all-day radiothon fundraiser, something she could listen to; and they had to do it quickly. Polly’s in palliative care, which means she’s been through all the treatments, they didn’t work, and she’s dying.
“We’ve put down the flags today,” said one of the DJs, just before they kicked things off at 6 a.m. “Normally we’re competitive, we’d be at each other’s throats. But not today. This is all for Polly.” Polly’s Think Pink Radio-thon is going on as I write this.
We live in a rural area. The biggest town around has about 9,000 people, and many villages have populations in the hundreds, not thousands. There are 20 radio stations serving our valley, a group of towns clustered on either side of the Connecticut River dividing New Hampshire and Vermont. Some stations are barely more than a microphone, and someone to speak into it. All told, the audience for these stations – if you include their very farthest reach, down to Bellows Falls, Vermont, up to Dixville Notch, New Hampshire – is maybe 200,000 people. A population comparable to, oh, Madison, Wisconsin. This is our small world.
I volunteered to be interviewed on the radiothon, kicking things off at 6 a.m. I spoke of my treatment at our cancer center, where Polly now rests, awaiting the end of her life. I called for contributions, noting that cancer is indiscriminate, striking any of us at any time. “Pick up that phone! Trust me; someone YOU know has been cared for, or will be, at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Your dollars count. Call us now.” And the phones began to ring – all five of them.
With just a single early-morning volunteer available to take contributions, the radio DJs themselves started picking up phones. Kathleen made a contribution and challenged her fellow visiting nurses in Vermont and New Hampshire to do the same. Margie called and told her medical center colleagues to pick up the phone and donate. Someone from “Café Service” asked that his fellow foodservice workers open up their wallets. And soon, this little radiothon got legs, and the contributions began to pour in. For Polly. For the cancer center. For all of us – in treatment, past treatment, beyond treatment.
If the world’s problems seem too big for you, too daunting, don’t give up. Small steps will bring you to your destination just as surely as giant strides. None of us will cure breast cancer alone. We don’t need to. All across America – around the world – there are good people, people who want to help. Together, we can make a difference. Together, doing our own tiny parts, we can beat this killer. So that never again will we need to hold a radiothon for a 30-year-old woman listening from her hospital bed, waiting for breast cancer to end her life.
Polly's Think Pink Radio-thon raised over $33,000 in 13 hours to benefit cancer research.
A Sad Update: Pauline "Polly" Robbins passed away on January 12, 2008. Said Jean Brown, executive director of Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, "Thanks to all of you for participating and sharing your lives with the community during Polly's radiothon. It was a wonderful testament to Polly's life and the joy she brought to the community. She will be remembered."
Read Remembrances from her colleagues and listeners at Radio-Info.com.