Keith Larson of WBT AM/FM Publishes Inspirational Book, That Season of Hope

April 28, 2014

ThatSeasonOfHope Book

By Stella Morrison

Keith Larson of 1110 WBT AM/FM, Charlotte, hopes the world will be inspired by a girl who left his audience spellbound a decade ago.

Larson recently released That Season of Hope, a book that chronicles the connection between Hope Stout, a 12-year-old girl who lost her battle with a rare bone cancer in January 2004; the playoff victory of the Carolina Panthers football team; and the radio interview on Larson’s show at WBT AM/FM that started a frenzy of donations to organizations that support families who are struggling with cancer.

“The story of this girl has been going on for 10 years,” said Jessica RoBards, Executive Assistant at Greater Media Charlotte. “Larson just published the book last summer, and it brought back a lot of memories and connection with the Panthers. It’s a back-and-forth inspirational story between the two.”

Larson’s relationship with the Stout family began in December 2003, when he brought Hope’s story and her final wish through Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina to the attention of his listeners.

“She asked Make-A-Wish how many children were on their list, which was 155 at the time, and she said that her wish was to grant the wishes of the 155 children,” Larson said. “Here is this bright, uplifting voice of a 12-year-old girl who had been battling cancer for almost six months [at that point] and had been through numerous rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries, and yet, you hear her talk about not wanting a wish for herself, but wanting to help those other kids. It was a completely selfless conversation. Hope’s story is a very powerful one that grabs people.”

Within minutes of Larson’s interview with Hope, donations of all kinds poured in to raise the $1 million needed to grant the wishes of the 155 children. The Carolina Panthers got involved as well, donating four tickets to a Panthers playoff game that raised $15,000 in an hour at auction.

“A whole series of this kind of stuff went down in the course of four weeks, leading up to a big fundraising event called A Celebration of Hope,” Larson said, referring to a fundraiser in Hope’s honor that she did not live to see. “We exceeded the $1 million goal she set.”

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WBT AM/FM’s Keith Larson signs copies of his successful book, That Season of Hope. All proceeds from the book will be donated to three charities: the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Carolina Panthers’ Keep Pounding cancer foundation and the March Forth with Hope Foundation.

A huge Panthers fan, Hope met two players who were battling cancer while she was struggling herself. She struck up a relationship with guard/tackle Kevin Donnalley, who now sits on the board of the foundation created in Hope’s memory. Larson noted that WBT AM/FM is currently the flagship station of the Carolina Panthers, but was not at the time of Hope’s phone call.

“She really grabbed [Donnalley] by the heart,” Larson said. “She would call him after every game and he went to her on Halloween to bring her Panthers stuff. Her family held season tickets forever, and they were finally able to go to a game in the fall when she was very sick.”

Since then, WBT AM/FM has organized an annual motorcycle ride called Keith’s Ride that benefits the March Forth with Hope Foundation, named in memory of the girl who inspired Larson a decade ago. The foundation provides financial assistance to families battling cancer or other life-threatening diseases. The fundraiser also assists other organizations that address the needs of ill and injured children.

“Each year, riders get to ride with a police escort through the city [of Charlotte] on a certain route, and any of the money that is raised from that ride goes toward the March Forth with Hope Foundation and a child who is alive and in need,” said RoBards, who is involved in organizing the fundraiser each year.

Every year before Christmas, Larson replays the 10-minute conversation he had with Hope to remind listeners of the outpouring of donations and encouragement that occurred after the original conversation played.

“Thousands of people have heard that conversation,” Larson said. “That conversation and recalling it is a large thing in itself. I always wanted to capture it in book form.”

With the help of WBT AM/FM and Greater Media Charlotte, the book has seen success. Since its release, That Season of Hope has broken into the top 25 sports books and the top 50 family and relationships books on Kindle.

“WBT put together a three-hour special about the book that aired on several Sundays,” Larson said. “What WBT did was above and beyond in the promotion of the book. … In those early weeks after the book came out, WBT’s support helped jump-start it on Amazon so that it would get noticed and show up in rankings. The support that WBT gave to it was a real material part of how well it’s done.”

And Larson won’t take home a single penny on sales. All proceeds from the book, published by Tate Publishing, will be donated to three charities: the Make-a-Wish Foundation; the Carolina Panthers’ Keep Pounding cancer foundation; and the Stout family’s March Forth with Hope Foundation.

“This is a permanent contribution,” Larson said. “For however long people buy this book, it will support these charities.”