Talkfest Harnesses Radio Personalities to Charity Fundraiser

For the past 17 years, legendary figures of talk radio have participated in Talkfest, a fundraising event hosted by WINS AM790 and WTAR 850AM in Norfolk, Virginia.

Juli Zobel, general sales manager for both stations, organizes Talkfest every year, collaborating with a charity for which to raise money. Zobel helped launched the annual festival with talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh in 1989 with his “Rush to Excellence” tour as the headline act. This year, multiple returning guest host Sean Hannity and first time participant Dr. Laura Schlessinger, both nationally-syndicated talk show hosts, will be there.

This year’s featured charity was selected in part because of Schlessinger’s initial support of it with her organization, Take on the Day Productions. Operation Family Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to financially assisting the families of soldiers wounded or killed in the War on Terror, is the charity being helped this year. Zobel met OFF Founder Mike Cash while both were in Washington DC to witness Schlessinger receive an award from the Department of Defense at the Pentagon for her outstanding work with OFF.

Cash said he hopes to raise at least $20,000 on Saturday. “The whole purpose to continue to assist our wounded warriors and families killed in action with financial grants,” he said in a phone interview.

He speaks with many of the families the charity helps on a daily basis and says OFF provides “additional resources” that the government is unable to cover, including help with mortgage, rent and travel expenses. To date, OFF has been able to help more than 200 families in the past three years.

After Schlessinger “adopted” OFF, she helped raise more than $ $675,000 and boosted their national recognition. Talkfest organizers wanted to snag Schlessinger for the event and by featuring OFF, they achieved their goal and found a extraordinary cause to support.

Zobel called Talkfest the radio station’s “signature promotion” and this year is the most “star studded lineup I’ve ever had,” she gushed, adding she “probably shouldn’t have gone so wild on this.”

The main event is Saturday but festivities technically begin Friday night with a benefit dinner, “Help, Hope and Heroes”, where Schlessinger and fellow talk radio personality Clark Howard will dine at La Galleria Ristorante. There, an auction will kick off the weekend.

In addition to Saturday’s all day talk extravaganza (which will include Glenn Beck and George Noory), Schlessinger is sponsoring “Bikers for the Brave,” a police-escorted motorcycle ride at the Hampton Roads Harley Davidson dealer. This will also be a fundraising opportunity for participants at $15 for riders and $5 for passengers to ride.

The motorcycle ride idea surfaced from Schlessinger’s love of Harleys: she has a Harley Trike, according to Zobel.

“When she saw we had a couple big motorcycle sponsors we started talking and laughing about it,” said Zobel, “And we thought, what if we do a ride for charity?”

Talkfest will take place at Old Dominion University with free parking and admission. This is the first year the event has been held on a weekend so Zobel expects many more attendees than the typical 7500. Most people come and go throughout the day as their favorite hosts come on.

“Sean Hannity comes in….does his thing, signs autographs, may stick around,” said Zobel. “Dr. Laura will ride in on her motorcycle during Sean’s appearance…meet and mingle,” he said.

A few of the big name sponsors, like RS Andrews Tidewater and Harley Davidson will present checks directly to Cash and Zobel said she hopes to raise $50,000. No matter what, Saturday’s event will put OFF over the $1 million mark, according to Cash.

Zobel has been working on Saturday’s event for over a year now, aiming to top previous years in fundraising, notoriety and revenue. “It’s been my baby…and I’m ready to deliver,” said Zobel, who was immediately drawn to OFF’s cause in part because her husband is a retired Navy Captain. “As soon as I found out 100% proceeds go to help these families…there is not enough money out there to help these troops and these guys are coming back war heroes but having to wait a long time to get help and checks.”

Cash has dedicated himself to running this non-profit organization, relying on volunteers and working with many parents of military men and women.

“I do it because I have a passion and a concern for our wounded warriors and families killed in action,” he said.

It’s a great cause, and sounds like great fun.