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The Annual Hungerthon Underway on CBS Radio Stations; Dedicated to Pete Fornatale

WhyHunger is the organization at the heart of Hungerthon, the yearly charity event broadcast today on many stations, primarily owned by CBS Radio.

Started in 1975, this year’s event takes on a special need–victims of Superstorm Sandy. The devastation altered the airing of Hungerthon, which traditionally runs close to Thanksgiving.

“Hurricane Sandy created a crisis that was front and center in everyone’s minds and life experience,” Noreen Springstead, director of marketing and fundraising for WhyHunger, tells FishbowlNY. “Families who had never before been without food or shelter were forced to endure these hardships for the first time, and many are still struggling to meet their basic needs.”

Despite the agency’s focus on the long-term poverty crisis, WhyHunger partnered with numerous tri-state groups to provide essential food and water to those struggling in the days and weeks since Sandy.

“Through Hungerthon’s many public service shows we are shining a spotlight on those organizations and also raising funds for their work,” Springstead says. “We have long-term relationships with the most effective organizations in New York and New Jersey that are solving the hunger problem and are able to support them during this critical time.”

Springstead says those in need can call the national hotline at 1-866-3-Hungry for assistance.

For others waiting to make a donation, the stations will offer items geared toward the specific station and audience. For example, WCBS-FM is accepting bids to join “Brooklyn’s Own” Joe Causi in studio during Saturday Night 70s and enjoy a catered Italian (of course) meal.

Tuning to WFAN, one item up for grabs includes a tour of the NFL Today set and meeting the hosts on December 23.

1010 WINS is giving one lucky listener the chance to break bread with veteran reporter John Montone.

But it’s WCBS 880 that has a full docket on the auction block. Listeners can win a visit to a taping of Sunday Morning, and have brunch with host Charles Osgood. Others may choose to take a walking tour of Lower Manhattan with longtime City Hall reporter Rich Lamb. Radiophiles may want to place a bid for an inside look at CBS Radio New York on Hudson Street with “tour guides” Wayne Cabot and Steve Scott.

Perhaps you want to combine news and sports by attending a Mets game with Tony Guida and Bill Ayres, WhyHunger co-founder and executive director.

Additionally, your child can visit the Yankees dugout, attend a game with three friends and stop by the WCBS broadcasting booth to meet John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

When all the items are sold and donations are tallied, Springstead anticipates $850,000 being raised for Hungerthon. People can follow the activity at www.hungerthon.org.

This year’s Hungerthon is dedicated to the memory of radio great Pete Fornatale, who was instrumental in the charity event gaining traction. Mark Chernoff, the WFAN operations manager has been connected to WhyHunger since 1985. For the former WNEW-FM program director, Fornatale was the only choice.

Pete passed away earlier this year and was a driving part of Hungerthon since its earliest days at WNEW-FM in the 70′s when Harry Chapin was still alive,” Chernoff tells FishbowlNY. “Pete and I remained close through the years and I had him participate on many of the WFAN Hungerthons over the past 10 years, usually being on with Mike Francesa who was both a Pete ‘fan’ and also was a student of Pete’s way back when.”

Springstead adds, “Pete dedicated so much of his life and his work to WhyHunger as a board member and supporter, but most notably every year through Hungerthon.  He was the voice of Hungerthon and he will certainly be missed this year.”

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