In this photo from the 2020 Mississippi Miracles Radiothon, held prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Children’s of Mississippi patient Griffin Threatt of Clinton talks with on-air personality Ryan Johnson of Q101 in Meridian.

The 20th annual Mississippi Miracles Radiothon will have all the joy and inspiration of the 19 that came before it, but this year’s fundraiser to benefit the state’s only children’s hospital, set for March 3-5, will feature one major, exciting change.

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For the first time, it will be held in the community room of the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower. And for the first time, safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be taken.

“Being able to host the 20th Mississippi Miracles Radiothon inside the Sanderson Tower is so exciting and so meaningful,” said Jen Hospodor, director of community partnerships for the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“This year’s Radiothon will be different in some ways to keep everyone safe, but the inspirational stories of Children’s of Mississippi patients and their families will still be shared on the Radio People’s 12 stations in central Mississippi.”

Opened Nov. 2, the Sanderson Tower more than doubled the square footage of space devoted to pediatric care at UMMC. The state-of-the-art hospital expansion includes 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms, a floor of private pediatric intensive care rooms, a dozen surgical suites, an outpatient specialty clinic and an imaging center designed for children.

Through the hospital’s partnership with locally owned stations US 96.3, Mix 98.7, Y101.7, Blues 93.1 and 93.5 The Legend from Jackson, River 101.3, KHits 104.5 and 92.7 The Touch of Vicksburg, and 97 OKK, Q 101, 95.1 The Beat and Kiss 104.1 of Meridian, the broadcast will share the Children’s of Mississippi story.

John Anthony, program director of Mix 98.7, has been a broadcaster during 16 of the past 20 Mississippi Miracles Radiothon.

“The memories from Radiothon are absolutely the most cherished of my radio career,” he said. “It is the best work we do all year.”

Since the first Mississippi Miracles Radiothon in 2001, the annual event has raised more than $6.7 million, one caller’s donation at a time. Businesses in the community have joined in the effort as partners, with some providing matching funds and others donating food to fuel the marathon broadcast.

Patients such as Sybil Cumberland, the state’s current Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion, and her parents Jason and Tara Cumberland and brother Davis tell of their medical journeys and what the state’s only children’s hospital means to them.

Born with a congenital heart defect, Sybil underwent two surgeries, recovering in Children’s of Mississippi’s pediatric intensive care unit.

“It’s a small way for us to give back to an amazing hospital that helped Sybil and helps the children of Mississippi,” Tara Cumberland said, “and it allows our family bring awareness to CHD.”

This year’s Mississippi Miracles Radiothon will be the first for Bob Lawrence, a general manager and market manager for The Radio People.

“I have a very personal interest in children’s hospitals as my own daughter was born 12½ weeks early in San Diego and was in the hospital for a couple of months,” he said. “It was one of the scariest, most challenging times for my family, all while being one of the most wonderful blessings in my entire life. I feel like I owe the hospital there everything since today she is a healthy 23-year-old.”

Lawrence said The Radio People’s broadcasting team looks forward to the annual fundraiser. “I promise we will work hard to make this year a huge success.”

With social distancing measures, mask-wearing and barriers between on-air personalities and patients and families during interviews, plus limitations on attendance, the Mississippi Miracles Radiothon can be safely held in the community room at the lobby level of the Sanderson Tower.

“There’s nothing like broadcasting Radiothon from the children’s hospital, and we’re excited to be in the Sanderson Tower,” Anthony said. “This is what Radiothon is all about.”

Listeners can boost this year’s total by visiting Phone and text donations – (601) 496-KIDS (5437) or text GROW to 51555 – will be available March 3-5.