Behind the Scenes at the 15th Annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon
As any of the dozens of volunteers will tell you, it’s no easy task organizing the annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, which celebrated its 15th anniversary earlier this week.
This year, the event raised more than $3.5 million to benefit the organization in its fight to finally end cancer. While the athletes and celebrity guests definitely deserve some love for helping to bring awareness to the cause, the entire program wouldn’t be possible without all of the hard work behind-the-scenes at Fenway Park by the men and women of NESN and WEEI.
From manning the phones to keeping everyone on schedule, the networks’ employees who decide to volunteer and spend countless hours making sure every aspect of the radio-telethon goes smoothly. For Rose Mirakian, the coordinating director of Bruins hockey who’s worked at NESN for over 30 years, that means spending pretty much the entire two days in the production truck in order to monitor and guide the television portion of the event.
“Yeah we don’t sleep much,” Mirakian said. “But it’s just great to be here and to hopefully raise a lot of money for a good cause.”
Mirakian, who’s worked as a producer on the radio-telethon nearly ever year since its started, is one of more than 50 NESN employees who helped out this week as a part of the network’s NESN Connects program. NESN gives its employees three paid days off a year to take part in company sponsored events.
Getting time off is a nice reward for helping others, but that’s not why Mirakian and most of her co-workers decided to sacrifice their time for the radio-telethon. The Jimmy Fund is close to many of the employees hearts as almost all of them have a family member or loved one who has suffered from cancer.
“My mom was treated at Dana Farber for breast cancer in 2000,” Mirakian said. “She’s doing great. She’s a survivor, if you will. Sadly, a lot of people that we know have cancer.”
“It’s a little bit of a different story when it happens to you or someone close to you,” she added. “You’re in a spin.”
An executive producer for WEEI, Joe Zarbano has helped out at the event for four straight years, however it was a bit more personal for him this time around. His father died of lung cancer in March, which prompted Zarbano to team up with his co-workers to raise $5,000 for the cause.
Although he’s been apart of the event for so many years, Zarbano never thought the disease could affect his family, until it finally did. Now that he’s seen the devastation cancer can cause firsthand, the radio-telethon has taken on a new meaning for Zarbano, who wants to do everything that he can to put an end to cancer.
“It’s important for people to get involved because, maybe they are not affected by cancer right now, but they could be a year from now,” he said. “The important thing is that we keep on raising money to hopefully, one day, come up with treatments that can keep someone around longer.”
Even though the event can get a bit somber, what makes it worth it for the staff is meeting and forming friendships with the child patients who are dealing with the disease, yet somehow never lose their grit and determination.
NESN and WEEI broadcaster Dale Arnold recalls befriending a young patient named Tara Daniels after interviewing her on the program. The two have become close over the years and are even text buddies now.
Unfortunately, Daniels is back in the hospital following a third cancer diagnosis. Despite the bad news, she still wanted to help Arnold out at the event.
“She’s in Children’s Hospital right now and is texting me while we’re on the air,” Arnold said. “I’ve seen how hard this kid fights. I’ve seen how tough this battle is for her. What she’s saying is, ‘I wish I could be there with you guys today.’ That’s the kind of people you deal when you do those things.”
Arnold believes that if enough people just took the time to meet some of the kids who are battling the disease, they’d be able to raise the funds to end cancer for good.
“If I could bring everybody over there and just spend an afternoon with me, we’d never have to hold another one of these telethons,” Arnold said. “We would raise enough money in one day to do enough research to wipe this thing out.”