Q100’s the Bert Show tackles a similar melange of topics as the now defunct Oprah Winfrey show: cheating spouses one moment, Kim Kardashian’s whereabouts the next. But every so often, it hits upon an issue that resonates far beyond the strictures of just a morning show.
For the past few weeks, the show has been promoting a letter-writing campaign called The Big Thank You. The goal: get listeners to send 400,000 letters, one for every U.S. military man and woman who is overseas during Thanksgiving.
The result: a whopping 650,000 letters and counting, as of Thursday afternoon. First Lady Michelle Obama, who is active in a support-the-troops initiative called Joining Forces, called the radio program Thursday afternoon to thank them.
“This is exactly the kind of outreach and activity we love to see,” said Obama, in an interview that aired Friday morning. The letter total “is truly amazing…I’ve had the privilege to meet with so many men and women in uniform and their families. It really means so much to them.”
“This validates what I know about our country,” the First Lady continued. “We are just full of individuals who are ready to step up when called to act.”
Kristin Klingshirn, a Bert Show cast member, has a younger brother Morgan whose been a U.S. Marine for the past 12 years and is currently deployed in Afghanistan. Her father Jim is a Vietnam vet. So for her, this campaign touches close to home.
“You know as a military kid how much sacrifice and stress you undergo just having loved ones in harm’s way,” Obama said to Klingshirn. “We have to lift people like you up.”
“People don’t understand how hard it is,” Klingshirn said, choking up after the interview. “To hear her reaction, it makes me feel appreciated.”
She said her brother has been overseas four times. “Every time he comes back, he’s a little bit changed,” she said. “They see unspeakable things. They do unspeakable things. To have a little piece of home, this handwritten letter tells them they are not doing this in vain. He has kept every single letter he’s received.”
For the past month, more than 200 volunteers have taken 600,000-plus letters out of envelopes and sorted them into boxes. More than 400,000 were shipped out of Q100’s building Thursday, ready to go overseas via the U.S. Postal Service in time for Thanksgiving.
The Bert Show did a similar campaign in 2007, sending out 375,000 letters.
Why do it again? A few weeks ago, show host Bert Weiss had seen a story about veterans coming home and feeling disconnected from civilians. “It felt like the right thing to do at the right time again,” he said. “The military wasn’t on the front page anymore.”
Tommy Owen, the Bert Show operations manager who oversaw the campaign, said they received letters not just in the three markets where the show airs but all over the country: “I’d say social media really helped get the word out.”
Greg Uryc, a sales manager with Pitney Bowes who helped with logistics for the 2007 campaign, said it was much easier this time since they found ways to streamline the process and worked out of an air-conditioned room in an office building as opposed to a warehouse. “We created an assembly line,” he said. His company paid for postage, which totaled $5,000.
The letters came in slowly at first. As of October 24, the program had only 40,000 letters. Then they flooded in. “People waited until the last second, but they came through,” Owen said.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk