Radiothon a chance to help less fortunate in city

Why all the charity stuff?”

Someone asked me that at an airport. He meant no harm. He just couldn’t understand why, as a sports writer, I would get so involved in other people’s problems.

Why all the charity stuff? It’s a question I will think about all day today. Really. I mean ALL DAY. By the time you read this, I likely will have been talking for a few hours. On the radio. By the time you wrap a fish in this newspaper or delete the link from your screen, I still will have been talking for hours more. On the radio.

From 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. today, live, on a stage in the north side of the Somerset Collection in Troy, I will be talking about Detroit, helping its neediest citizens, on WJR-AM (760), with my co-host Ken Brown, with about 60 celebrity guests — including Hugh Jackman, Dr. Phil, Jane Pauley, Brad Whitford, Tom Brady, Tim Allen, Matthew Stafford, Cyndi Lauper, John Pizzarelli, Mike Duggan, local TV and sports celebs — and trying to do something that perplexed that man in the airport.

Help other people.

Why bother? I’m in sports! I can talk about who should replace Brady Hoke, why the Lions might make the playoffs, how much money the Tigers should throw at a free agent — and get paid for it!

I should shut up and enjoy my great life.

Problem is, if I do that, it’s not such a great life. Just a selfish one.

The number: 1-866-992-GIVE.

The website: saydetroit.org.

A night to never forget

That number and site are where you could make a donation today, in the middle of the holiday season, to help our city’s babies, infants, schoolchildren, teens, college hopefuls, veterans, working families and senior citizens — all Detroiters. All in need.

Once a year we ask. Once a year, I talk all day about “that charity stuff.”

Because it has been nearly nine years since I formed S.A.Y. Detroit, after Super Bowl XL in 2006, when we were scooping homeless people off the streets and putting them in a big shelter to hide them from the tourists. Monday morning, we put them back in the snow.

It was cruel. I wrote about it. I spent a night at a shelter to demonstrate that to someone without a bed, food or heat, this is not something to dangle, then yank.

On line for a meal that night, a homeless man turned and looked me up and down.

“Aren’t you Mitch Albom?” he said.

Yes, I answered.

He looked again. “So what happened to you?”

I never forgot that. None of us should. We are all but a few bad events from that line. There but for the grace of God.

What happened to you? It’s a better question than “why all the charity stuff?”

So today, I will think about that one.

This is the number. 1-866-992-GIVE.

This is the site: saydetroit.org.

Aid for the young and the old

I’ve learned a lot about charity since forming my first one, The Dream Fund, in 1997. You need to be careful. You need to stretch a dollar. You need to be honest with your supporters.

That is why S.A.Y. Detroit, now the umbrella for seven different charities, partners with Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, a productive and longtime charitable force in Detroit. That’s why our charities are lined up to feed into each other, whenever Detroiters might stumble, starting with infant daycare, to a medical clinic for homeless kids and mothers, on to afterschool programs, then scholarships to the College for Creative Studies, then building facilities for struggling veterans, providing homes for working families (who get to keep them after two years of taxes and utilities) all the way to helping seniors like a 101-year-old woman who was evicted from her home. We got it back for her.

And every dollar given is a dollar spent on the needy. There are no administrative costs. Zero. All that is paid privately. Down to the paper clips.

I know a sports column should be fun. But today will be fun. You can attend in person, it will be streamed all day on freep.com, WDIV-TV (Channel 4) will cut in many times, callers can bid on amazing auction items from lunch with Stafford or Brad Ausmus, to Henrik Zetterberg’s suite at the Joe (with a visit from Hank) to a personalized “Simpsons” drawing by Matt Groening, to answering machine messages from Hank Azaria, to tickets and backstage passes to a Jimmy Buffet concert or a Dr. Phil show to tons more.

Listen. This is, indeed, a great life in the sports section. But even sports teams wear their city’s name on their uniforms, and that should mean something. It means yourepresent. I want my life to represent more than just what’s good for me, and if I know our state, I bet most of you do, too.

Once a year we ask. Please help.

The number: 1-866-992-GIVE.

The site: saydetroit.org.

Thank you all. Even the guy at the airport.

Contact Mitch Albom: malbom@freepress.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Follow him on Twitter@mitchalbom. To read his recent columns, go tofreep.com/sports/mitch-albom.

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