Remembering 35 years of St. Jude telethon and its founder

By Denise Jackson

Remembering 35 years of St. Jude telethon and its founder

January 22, 2013 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 4:07 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- WEEK studios is the location where former Peoria Mayor Jim Maloof launched the St. Jude Telethon 35 years ago. Due to its huge success over the years, it outgrew this site but never its relationship with many station employees.

In 1978, former WEEK General manager Bill Adams was not too keen on hosting any more telethons. According to WEEK anchor Tom McIntyre, the first St. Jude telethon almost did not occur.

"The owners of the station had had a bad experience with a telethon," said McIntyre. "They didn't want to do a telethon, but Jim Maloof made it happen and the only instructions management gave to Bill Adams was 'don't screw it up'."

WEEK employee and St. Jude Telethon producer Steve Shaw said the commitment from the employees was there from the beginning.

"The union allowed us to let people that didn't work touch the cameras but let them only for this event," said Shaw. "So we had people in the newsroom and other offices who would come in and run cameras who had never run cameras."

Former WEEK anchor Christine Zak returns for the telethon each year. She says Maloof kept everyone centered on their goal of raising money for the local St. Jude affiliate.

"With his facts and his love for St. Jude, that really got us going and really got us focused," said Zak.

Due to its huge success over the years, the St. Jude Telethon moved to the former Shrine Mosque and later to the Peoria Civic Center. WEEK Sports Director Lee Hall remembers Maloof's support during his first year covering the Memphis to Peoria Run in 1986.

"He came up to me and said 'you're gonna love it, baby. It's a family' and I'm like, 'yeah, whatever. I got to go do this photo shoot for four days in the heat and whatever'. I came back and told him that he was right," said Hall.

Former WEEK weatherman Lee Ranson says Maloof was unique, calling him an important civic leader.

"Not only did he raise money for St. Jude, he raised money for every worthy cause," said Ranson. "The Red Cross, we had a blood drive and all the weathermen and the mayor got together and did this big promotion for a blood drive we had."

Because of Maloof's drive and commitment to causes, WEEK will continue to carry the banner not only for St. Jude but other groups as well.

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