Gary Sexton is going the extra mile to raise money for his public radio station — 200 miles, in fact.
Sexton, director of broadcasting for WYSU in Youngstown, Ohio, has challenged himself to run a mile every hour for nine hours each weekday throughout the month of October. It’s his way of contributing to the station’s monthlong fundraising drive.
“We’re trying to really find ways to encourage people to just participate in any way they can,” said Sexton.
As of Thursday, 500 donors have supported the running challenge, and the station hopes to enlist 300 more. Donors are encouraged to give a set amount for every mile Sexton runs, starting as low as 10 cents per mile.
A longtime runner, Sexton said he got the idea to hit the streets for dollars 15 years ago when the station was raising funds for a new transmitter. “I thought, well, why not put all the pressure in the world on myself and make it a fundraiser for the station?” he said. His completion of a 50-mile race raised more than $40,000 and brought the station local publicity.
Sexton paused his running challenge for two years during the pandemic. In 2021, he resolved to get back into ultramarathon running and did a 65-mile fundraising run.
His success inspired him to attempt his longest run ever the next year: 88.5 miles within 24 hours in an October 2022 race in New Jersey. He completed 89 miles and brought in over $20,000 in support.
To complete this challenge, Sexton says he uses the outdoor loop on Youngstown State University’s campus when the weather is good. While on air, or when the weather turns south, he uses a treadmill currently on loan to WYSU from the university.
This year, Sexton is enlisting “celebrity guests” to join him on his runs. Near the end of his daily air shifts, he talks about his guests “to create a little energy behind that as well,” he said.
Sexton said he is particularly looking forward to running with the interim president of Youngstown State University, WYSU’s licensee. The celebrity guest opportunity has garnered attention, and Sexton is fully booked for the month.
“I think we’ve been making the point really strongly about how important membership support is,” Sexton said. “The bottom line of all this [is] … we’re just trying to have as much fun as we can.”