By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Three Townsquare Media radio stations drummed up about $10,500 in two hours Monday to help the Oneonta Little League rebuild from vandalism this past weekend.
The original goal had been to raise $3,000, based on a request by Oneonta Little League President Bill Erario, a guest on the show, according to radio host Chuck D’Imperio of WDOS. The beyond-goal response was gratifying, D’Imperio said, and reflected the breadth and depth of community support for the long-time youth program.
Erario agreed the community’s response was “absolutely amazing” but said his reaction to the fundraising total was difficult to describe.
“Words still fail to come to me,” Erario said Monday night.
The vandalism, including arson that badly damaged the third-base dugout, threatened to be a setback to the program and goals for springtime field improvements, Erario, said.
But the $10,500 raised, offers of building supplies from local businesses and willingness of residents to volunteer hours of labor to rebuild have turned the situation into one of opportunities, he said.
“It reinforces why we live in such a great community,” Erario said.
Oneonta police continue investigating vandalism in the city’s Sixth Ward that included arson damages Saturday to a dugout at Doc Knapp Field, also known as the Oneonta Little League Field.
Late Monday afternoon, police estimated damages at the dugout at about $10,000. Vandals also spray-painted graffiti on the playing field facilities, on the city’s historic Swart-Wilcox House museum and on Riverside Elementary School.
“People were horrified, people were shocked at the horribleness, the nastiness of it,” said D’Imperio, a radio personality known as “Big Chuck” who also writes a column for The Daily Star.
George Wells, Townsquare Media general manager, organized the three-station radiothon on Sunday, D’Imperio said. WSRK Morning Host Miss Tracie and WZOZ Morning Host Leslie Ann joined D’Imperio for the simulcast.
The hosts were on the air between 8 and 10 a.m. talking about the vandalism, interviewing guests and encouraging support for the local Little League. Wells, who has been a local Little League coach, spoke about a need not only to support the rebuilding efforts but also to strengthen the organization for future generations, D’Imperio said.
The result was a “maelstrom” of activity, including telephone calls, emails and visits to the offices at 34 Chestnut St. in Oneonta by donors, including some Little League players who made donations, D’Imperio said.
The hosts didn’t know how much was raised until Wells reported at 10 a.m. that donations passed the $10,000 mark, then reached $10,500 by day’s end, D’Imperio said.
“It was just a remarkable feeling” to see the community support, he said. “It was an extremely gratifying moment for me.”
Contributions ranged from pocket change to $500, D’Imperio said. Businesses pledged supplies, such as lumber, paint, labor and in-kind services, he said, and contributions came in from listeners in as far away as Florida and California.
D’Imperio said he didn’t know of any other radiothon that had raised $10,000 in two hours.
A local radiothon Aug. 11, 2011, to help Delaware County through the United Way of Otsego and Delaware Counties raised $10,000 between 7 and 9:30 a.m., according to a D’Imperio column from that year, then went on to reach $34,500 by noon and a total of more than $50,000 a few days later.
Erario, who is in his third year as president, said the $3,000 figure was a preliminary estimate made by a coach and based on costs for materials. An insurance adjuster is reviewing the damages, he said, and dugouts may be considered out-buildings ineligible for coverage.
About 185 children participate in Little League each season, assisted by about 35 coaches working with 13 teams, he said, and the season opens April 26.
The Oneonta Little League was planning to install a dugout at its minor league Swart-Wilcox Field this spring, Erario said. The hope now is that the Doc Knapp Field dugout can be rebuilt, he said, and that the momentum with volunteer support and donations will extend to making improvements at the other field.
“It will be that much more special on opening day,” he said.