It was just prior to Christmas in 1973 when WWKI disc jockey, Dick Bronson, received a call while hosting his hour-long, call-in radio program Viewpoint. The call was from a long-time, laid-off autoworker asking what he was supposed to do in order to give his family a happy holiday season. Bronson offered to donate $20.00 (half of his wallet contents) if others listening would do the same.
What transpired was a spontaneous extra hour of Viewpoint and cash totaling over $1,000.00 plus some food, toys and clothing. Not only was the unemployed autoworker helped but other families in the community were aided as well. With the first solicitation, Dick Bronson established a continuing philosophy whereby every dime and/or item donated would be used to assist the underprivileged.
We Care continues to follow the philosophy that was established in 1973. All donations are used for assistance and cover no overhead or costs of the program. We Care organizers pride themselves in maintaining such simplicity. A mirror reflection of the heart of this community is seen in the eyes of our children as they experience the blessings of Christmas and the wonderment and mystery of Santa.
Over all these years, We Care has raises millions of dollars! Here are the year by year totals.
Highlights of We Care
- In 1975, WWKI Radio and KI 3 (T.V. station) simulcast the first 47-hour radio-telethon, the previous year six hours of radio time had been donated.
- In 1980, turned a $1,000 donation into a semi load of 172,000 jars of Beech Nut baby food valued at $28,000. The story gained national attention and was aired on NBC’s Today Show
- In 1980, spontaneously sold the first of the dated We Care signs for $250.00. The selling of the sign is now a tradition and has contributed in excess of $30,000.
- In 1982, TeleCable of Kokomo joined the We Care Christmas effort by donating airtime for the entire 47-hour telethon. This donation was the largest single in-kind contribution dollar wise and it also carried the entire fund drive to thousands more viewers.
- In 1983, We Care incorporated, obtained 501 (c) (3) status, tax-exempt classification, and a trademark logo.
- In 1985, Ponderosa®, in conjunction with their 20-Year Celebration, held a We Care-Sylvia concert and presented We Care with a $10,000 check.
- In 1985, the largest, single donation was a check for $13,054.00 raised through ongoing activities throughout Delco Electronics Plant No. 5.
- In 1985, published the first We Care not just another COOKBOOK and sold all 10,000 copies in 21 days.
- In 1986, introduction of the popular STUFF; a toffee coated popcorn, pecans, almonds, & nut mouthwatering treat. Cates Trucking of Swayzee voluntarily delivers the product annually.
- In 1991, published the 702-page We Care not just another COOKBOOK Classic Edition and sold ALL 10,000 copies in 21 hours (yes, 21 HOURS)! The first 5550 were sold from the back of a semitrailer.
- Various merchants used over 9,000,000 grocery bags which conveyed a message of support for We Care. (’85, ’86, ’87, ’88).
- Received the Presidential C-Flag award and was a guest in a Rose Garden ceremony. (’85, ’86, ’87).
- In 1992, Coca-Cola distributed 12 oz. cans with a special 20th Anniversary message.
- The first in a series of baskets, Celebrating The 20th anniversary We Care Commemorative Basket was offered.
- In 1993, reprint 10,000 copies of We Care not just another COOKBOOK Classic Edition and sold out.
- In 1993, Coca-Cola initiated the first 32 oz. cup with nearly 100% support in the Kokomo area. The public seized the opportunity to create a collectible item, which resulted in an annual program promoting We Care.
- In 1994, area school choirs sang music for the We Care joy of singing CD and tape selling as a benefit for both the schools and We Care.
- In 1995, TCI continued the broadcast tradition and simulcasts the telethon with WWKI Radio.
- In 1995, the first Spirit of Hope tapestry sold for $8,000.
- In 1996, was honored with The Washington Times Foundation National Service Award
- The Kokomo Mall provided space for a temporary We Care store during the two weeks of the Trim-A-Tree Festival.
- Dick and Charlie hosted a tour of the We Care facility at the beginning of the 1997 25th Anniversary Telethon.
- In 1997, Coca-Cola distributed a special 12 oz. can recognizing the 25 year effort of We Care.
- The basket series continued in popularity with the sixth in the series, Celebrating 25 Years of Giving, The Season of Hope Basket .
- Special items were offered celebrating the 25th Anniversary of We Care – pewter plates, ornaments, license plates, and silver coins.
- In 1997, tapestry tote bags along with denim tote bags were introduced along with Creamy Potato Soup mix.
- In 1997, the number of phone operators increased to sixteen to enable more callers an opportunity to bid.
- In 1998, you talk about crunch, We Care Tater Chips were introduced and were sold by Meijer and the Kroger stores in addition to the We Care store.
- In 1998 Insight Communications joined WWKI to simulcast the telethon and extended the time to a full 48 hours.
- In 1999, the Citadel Broadcasting Company acquired the parent Company of WWKI, the Wicks Broadcast Group, and sponsored their first We Care telethon with WWKI in December of 1999. Citadel would continue the Corporate sponsorship through December, 2010.
- In 2002, We Care Founder and WWKI radio personality Dick Bronson died suddenly from a massive heart attack while participating in the July 8th Haynes-Apperson Festival Parade. He had led the We Care efforts for 29 years.
- In 2002, We Care celebrated its 30th anniversary, raising a record total of nearly $860,000 for the season.
- In 2004, Jan Buechler, AKA We Care Jan, announced she had been diagnosed with cancer and would retire as volunteer coordinator at the end of the year.
- In 2006, an accidental fire at the WWKI studio building on April 26th destroyed the We Care offices and infrastructure. Re-building began almost immediately, while planning continued for the 34th annual telethon in December.
- In 2006, We Care Jan passed away on June 15th, marking the end of her 32 consecutive years of We Care leadership and coordination.
- In 2006, the We Care offices re-opened in November, newly renovated during fire recovery, and plans proceeded for the 34th working season.
- In 2007, We Care celebrated its 35th anniversary. Viewers from across the world joined in as portions of the telethon were broadcast on the Internet for the first time ever.
- In 2008, Comcast acquired Insight Communications, and joined WWKI to simulcast the 36th We Care telethon during their first-year serving the Kokomo market.
- In 2009, Charlie Cropper, co-host of the popular Male Call program, passed away on February 24th. Charlie was in his 40th year as a broadcast employee of WWKI and was a major part of We Care for 36 years.
- In 2010, We Care auctions autographed book displays from President Barack Obama and former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
- In 2011, Cumulus Media acquired the parent Company of WWKI, the Citadel Broadcasting Company, on September 16th, 2011, and sponsored their first We Care telethon with WWKI on December 2nd, 2011.