Recent News

A special thank you to Mrs. Broccolo’s Kindergarten
class at Calusa Park Elementary for raising
funds for The Ricky King Children’s Fund through
Charity for Change.

 

It’s a crisp, starlit night on Storter Avenue off Bayshore in Naples. Very quiet, too. Several of the modest homes in the neighborhood are decorated with blinking white, green and red lights.

House 2619 has a several cars and a large, white SUV parked in the driveway. Standing at the mailbox you can hear Christmas carols and laughter floating out of the living room, an 8-by-15-foot plywood add-on that looks like it used to be a front porch.

Inside, next to the Christmas tree, John Stebbins, 46, picks up a present wrapped in shiny red paper and topped with a hunter green ribbon. He lovingly taps it on little John John‘s head. John John, 9, has cerebral palsy, so does his twin brother, Christopher. John John has the mental maturity of a toddler and requires daily medicine injections through a tube that’s permanently embedded in his stomach. Christopher, however, started talking when he was about 18 months, Stebbins says.

“Hey, Christopher,” Stebbins shouts above the singing and clapping. “Tell everybody how you say, ‘ho, ho, ho’.”

“Ho, ho, ho,” Christopher bellows to the delight of everyone in the house. Christopher claps while John John hops up and down on his knees and laughs.

Tonight the owners and managers of Curves in Naples, along with their family and friends, are visiting. They’ve brought presents and holiday cheer to this selfless man and his challenged sons.

Groups like this one have been making contributions and visiting with the Stebbins family since a Daily News article them ran in October. They’ve received presents, cash, clothes for the boys, food for a Christmas day dinner and even furniture. Stebbins isn’t sure just how many gifts the family has received or even bothered to tabulate the amount of money spent on him and his boys.

The Ricky King Fund, a non-profit organization that helps 40 to 50 local families in need each year, has helped Stebbins financially for more than a year. Vice president Daniel Weidenbruch says the community’s response to Stebbins and his sons has been remarkable.

“His life is a lot different. There’s been a whirlwind of support since the article.” People have even broached the idea of buying a home for the Stebbins family, Weidenbruch says.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised by something like that at this point.”

Tonight’s giving group starts another carol. Christopher tries to sing. He grabs a black rubber nose and puts it on and claps along with the others, albeit a little out of rhythm.

Stebbins smiles. His front teeth are gone. He can’t read or write and doesn’t have a job. He’s been out of work for a couple months now, and he and the boys live off an $1,100 monthly federal disability aid. The boys’ mother, Penny, lives in North Carolina. Stebbins says she couldn’t handle the stresses that come with raising two disabled kids.

Stebbins says he’ll never give up on the boys. Christopher will likely be able to function mostly on his own as an adult. John John, however, will need constant care the rest of his life.

By about 8 p.m., the group says their “goodbyes” and piles into the SUV.

Gary and Paula Bruton are dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“Those kids are amazing. It’s just wonderful,” Gary says while standing in the driveway. He looks to Domingo Camacho, whose wife manages one of the gyms, and says, “What a happy moment for them.”

“What a happy moment for us,” Camacho says. “Their faces just lit up.”

Christopher and John John press their faces up against the screened windows near the front door. “Bye, Tanta,” Christopher says, slightly mispronouncing Santa.

The Stebbins boys are happy, and that’s all that matters to their father.

There are no doctor appointments to go to or errands for Stebbins to run. All that’s left to do tonight is to stare at the giant pile of presents under the Christmas tree, which Stebbins bought last year, and dream.

The Stebbins tradition is to open presents on Christmas morning. The kids will open more gifts today than all their Christmases combined.

“It’s going to look like a tornado in here,” Stebbins says as he looks around the shack-like living room. “It’s going to be an awesome Christmas.”


 

John Stebbins measures out his son’s daily dose of medicine and sucks the concoction into a plastic syringe.

The 45-year-old can’t read the labels on the bottles — or really anything else for that matter — but Stebbins has managed to deliver the right medicine at the right time for the past nine years.

“I recognize what he needs by the bottle the drugs come in,” Stebbins says, drawing the last of the syrup into the syringe. “You don’t need to know how to read to know how to love.”

Stebbins turns from the kitchen counter where the drugs reside and calls to one of this sons, who is sitting in the living room.

“Come on John John. Time for your medicine,” the father says to his son. Stebbins picks up the boy, sits at the dining room table and places John John on his lap. Both John John and his twin brother Christopher have cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects muscle movements and fine motor skills.

Stebbins injects the drugs into a permanent tube protruding from his son’s stomach. The Tang-orange liquid courses through the clear tube. John John softly smacks his lips.

“I think he can taste it,” Stebbins says. “You can smell peppermint on his breath after.”

The drugs help boost the boy’s immune system and loosen his stools, the latter a problem because he doesn’t chew his food thoroughly enough.

As the final bits of medicine disappear, Stebbins pulls down his son’s blue shirt, covering the boy’s pale belly.

John John looks up at his father and smiles. Stebbins, who’s missing his front teeth, smiles back.

“There you go, John John,” Stebbins says, setting the boy down on a patch of carpet covering the plywood floor. The 9-year-old’s tendons and muscles are tighter than most at that age, so he walks on his tiptoes — like he’s crossing a pile of hot coals. He goes over to a bin of toys a few feet away where Christopher is already searching for matchbox cars.

Christopher pulls the cars out, walks over to the sun-bleached blue and white couch and arranges them in a straight line along the armrest.

While the boys are identical twins, the scope of their motor and mental disorder varies greatly between the two.

John John only recently started talking, announcing his favorite word, “Bye-bye,” anytime someone leaves a room. He took his first steps less than a year ago. He wears plastic braces on his legs to force the backs of his heels down and give support to his legs.

Christopher, on the other hand, started speaking and walking when he was about 11/2, Stebbins says.

“Daddy, here,” Christopher says, pointing to the couch. “Sit here.”

Stebbins walks over, sinks into the couch and watches his sons play.

On paper, John Stebbins is an out-of-work, illiterate, divorced, single dad, an odd person to care for two boys with cerebral palsy. In person, however, he’s has proven that money and education aren’t required to make a home a happy one.

He has developed a community — a network, really — of teachers, charitable organizations, family and government aid, all of which help offset medical costs and the general strain of raising two disabled boys.

His sister-in-law, who lives nearby in Bonita Springs, reads his mail. His brother Frank gives him a free place to stay. A local nonprofit provides medical equipment. The twins’ school, Poinciana Elementary School, provides breakfast and lunch.

“We take it day by day,” Stebbins says.

An oscillating fan near the front screen door clicks back-and-forth, circulating what feels like 90-degree heat. This happy home is more of a shack than a house you’d expect to find in downtown Naples.

Less than 10 miles from Fifth Avenue, this place is about the size of a two-car garage. There are two small bedrooms, each just large enough to fit a twin bed; a narrow kitchen and a bathroom-sized living and dining area. The walls and floors are plywood. The roof is metal.

Stebbins and his sons sleep in bunk beds. The boys get the bottom.

They live with Frank, a lawn maintenance worker in Naples. Frank owns the house.

John Stebbins, a former heavy equipment operator who grew up in Naples, has been out of work for the past two years. “I don’t work. I just take care of my two boys,” he says, explaining that when he was married to the boys’ mother, caring for the boys was easier. These days, when the boys are in school, Stebbins and his brother, Frank, work on improving their house.

They just put in new front windows with screens.

“We get more light this way,” Stebbins says one afternoon as he looks over his work.

But as far as a more-substantial daily job, all he has to say is: “My kids are more important than a job. I can get another job.”

The boys’ mother, Penny, lives in North Carolina.

“She just couldn’t handle the boys,” Stebbins says, adding that Penny is a diabetic.

“I don’t think their mother could take care of them,” he says. “I know it makes her sad to be away from them, but she just can’t be there for them physically and emotionally.”

“My brother is a saint,” says his sister-in-law, Heidi. “He does the best he can with what he has. A lot of people underestimate him. They hear he can’t read or that he’s out of work, and they think that puts him on a lower class.

“He takes care of his kids better than people with twice the ability and resources,” she says. He supports his family on $1,100 per month, which the boys get as federal disability aid. He uses food stamps for the meals he has to cook at home and depends on the boys’ elementary school for the their breakfast and lunch.

Last week, Stebbins spent $30 on new shoes for the twins.

“It’s the second pair this year for John John. He wears ‘em out crawlin’,” Stebbins says. “I got one pair for $19 and got the other half off. I really couldn’t afford it, but the boys need shoes.”

It’s those kind of small but essential expenses that seem to be the most troubling for Stebbins. Thirty dollars is a massive chunk of his budget.

“We are always here to help, no matter what Dad needs,” says one of the boys’ teachers, Judy Mangiaracina. “If we have extra clothes or materials, we send that stuff home with him.”

Mangiaracina has worked with the twins for four years as part of the school’s “Exceptional Student Education” program. She says Stebbins has always struck her as a capable and caring father.

She works with disabled or challenged kids on a daily basis, but Mangiaracina admits she’s thankful that it’s only a job and not a full-time lifestyle.

“It takes a lot of work — a lot of patience — to deal with these children. I’ve done this my whole life, and I’m so grateful that I don’t have to go home to one of them.

“Take John John: He may be 9, but developmentally he’s somewhere between 18 months and 3 years old.”

On a recent afternoon, after Stebbins drops the boys off for school, he grabs a handful of mail resting on the passenger seat of his car.

“I’m just gonna go into the office to take care of this,” he says. The pile of mail is made up of brochures and fliers for school sports and yearbook photos, but Stebbins needs help reading them.

“They help me out when I need it,” he says of the school’s staff. “I know the boys aren’t going to do sports, but they’re going to need photos, I think.”

Another source of help for Stebbins and the boys comes from the Ricky King Children’s Fund, a Naples-based nonprofit that provides healthcare funds and assistance to children in need.

“I think their situation is probably one of the worst that I’ve seen, especially in Naples,” says the executive director of the fund, Jennifer Weidenbruch. “They live so near Fifth Avenue — you have this man living so close and still struggling so much.

“I feel bad for John because he could be embarrassed about a lot of the things he doesn’t have or can’t do,” she says. “You know, things like not being able to afford basics like diapers for the boys or a wheelchair for John John. But even if you or I might be embarrassed, he still asks for help.”

Over the past year, the fund has given the boys a year’s supply of diapers ($1,216) and John John a wheelchair ($750).

“He knows he can call me if he needs anything,” she says.

And while Stebbins freely accepts needed help, he is still a proud man who works to do things on his own, Weidenbruch says.

“One thing that I found touching was that I told John I wanted pictures of the boys, and I said I would come out to the house and take them. He said, ‘No,’ ” she says.

“He saved up for a couple of months to buy a couple of disposable cameras to take the pictures himself. Once he took them, he said he could only afford to get one of the cameras developed. But he did it. I think it was important for him to show that he can do things for his children as well.”

John Stebbins grabs Christopher and kisses his cheek.

Christopher lets out a giddy laugh.

“Daddy,” he says with a smile, putting a matchbox car in Stebbins’ hand.

“They still let me kiss and hug ‘em. They’re still happy to be around their dad,” Stebbins says. “I’ll take that for as long as I can. A lot of kids their age don’t want that.”

John John crawls on the floor toward the couch, standing up at the last moment. He takes a few steps and takes a seat next to his father.

Christopher nudges in on the other side of Dad.

“They always want to be nearby,” Stebbins says, scooting to the middle of the couch so everyone can fit.

The plywood floor underneath creaks as the the get settled. The fan still pushes the stiff heat, clicking backand- forth.

“I want people to learn that it’s not hard to take care of handicapped kids. Well, it is and it isn’t hard. A lot of people just give up on them,” Stebbins says. “There’s never a good reason to give up on them.”

He knows John John will probably never be able to function on his own. He knows Christopher will eventually grow up and leave home. But Stebbins says he’ll manage.

“I’m gonna take care of John John as long as I’m alive,” he says. “As long as I’m breathing, I’m gonna be there for that boy.”

If, for some reason, he can’t care for either boy, Stebbins says a family member has agreed to take them. “These boys are my life,” he says. “I’m gonna keep this family together and make sure my sons are happy.”

—”THE RICKY KING FUND”
Jennifer Weidenbruch, Executive Director
5051 Castello Drive, #21
Naples, FL 34103
Phone: (239) 262-1808
Fax: (239) 262-4457


 

The Ricky King Fund was established by local radio talk-show host extraordinaire Rich King. It is a memorial to his late little boy, whose death led to fundraising for medical research and direct help to families of sick kids.

Now, four years after Rich King’s death, it is comforting to see the Ricky King Fund adhering to its fundamental legacy. This newspaper’s Monday “Our World” feature told of Uriel Jacob of Naples, born with physical challenges that keep him from walking, at least so far.

The Ricky King Fund to the rescue, working with others to help with a special van so Uriel, 6, can start school.

Rich King would have been proud. His spirit is well served.

For more information about the fund, call 262-1808 or go online to www.rickykingfund.org

You will be glad you did and can rest assured that your gifts will be shared with care and love.


 

She was told everything would be fine. She thought he was just sleeping.

But when Janette Perez gave birth to son Uriel Jacob, now 6, the newborn’s arms and legs were so pretzeled that the clothes and shoes she had already bought for him wouldn’t fit.

“When he was born he was only moving his eyes and his head only,” said Perez, 31, and a teaching assistant at Temple Shalom preschool. “He didn’t know he had arms and legs.”

Not long after, she learned he was born with arthrogryposis, a rare disorder causing multiple joint contractures that effects one in 3,000 live births. The condition is thought to be caused from abnormal nerve or muscle development in the womb. The Perez family had never heard of it, nor had the doctor suspected it was present.

At her six-month ultrasound, her doctor told her that the baby wasn’t moving She was scared but her doctor told her the baby’s heart was beating and that she had nothing to worry about.

“So I was thinking ‘OK, maybe he was sleeping’,” Perez said. “That was my idea.”

The disorder has left Uriel completely dependent on his family for mobility and feeding. Still, he’s doing therapy and improving. He can play video games and can even throw small items as far as several inches. He can also move across the room by lightly hopping and scooting himself along.

“The hard part of this I think was when the doctor told us that my son is going to be in a wheelchair,” she said. “For me it was terrible.”

As a Christian woman and with the prayers she received from members of her church she began to accept her son’s condition and worked to educate herself on the disorder.

But the challenges are far from over. Earlier this month Uriel had his fifth and most serious surgery. Muscle from his chest was taken out and inserted into two parts of his right arm. Uriel has difficulty developing muscles and in its place is fat tissue. The operation is intended to give Uriel some independence and the ability to move his right arm.

“So in the future he’s going to be stronger and he can be able to feed himself,” Perez said. “You know, something for him.”

But it’s expensive, and Perez, with husband Enrique, 42, struggles to pay for the 20 percent of Uriel’s medical expenses that insurance doesn’t cover.

“So many people think that if we have a child with disabilities, the government is helping a lot and it’s not true,” she said. “The only (organization) that helped me is Ricky King.”

She means the Ricky King Children’s Fund, a Naples based nonprofit that helps children in need of medical equipment.

Executive director Jennifer Weidenbruch said this is a common problem and government services such as Medicaid only cover the basic needs of children with disabilities and don’t cover medical equipment costs. Most often the foundation helps families at the lower-income levels who don’t have any personal insurance.

“And I think a lot of it is because they have these children that need constant care,” Weidenbruch said. “And unless you’re a really high income level it’s hard to afford constant care.”

Ricky King became involved when a parent at the preschool noticed Perez carrying Uriel everywhere. With donations from families at Temple Shalom, money raised from her own church, Iglesia Pentecostes Peniel, and $2,500 from The Ricky King Children’s Fund, the Perez family raised approximately $21,000 for the $35,000 van capable of transporting Uriel’s wheelchair.

Despite his physical challenges Uriel has no mental handicap. Next month he’ll be starting the first grade with kids without any disability at Big Cypress Elementary School.

“He’s a little clown in his class,” Perez said. “He’s friendly. Everybody loves him.”

But there are difficult times for Uriel, especially when he sees other children running and playing. Perez can see it in his face that he wants to join them. She has chosen to never discourage him from trying an activity he hopes to do independently someday.

“I think my idea is if I say ‘No, you cannot run or you cannot do this,’ I’m going to stop his idea to try to do it,” Perez said. “I mean, I don’t want to stop that.”

And working towards giving their son more independence is an ongoing goal for the family.

“We ask all the doctors, we always ask our first question: ‘Do you think he’s going to walk?’” And they say ‘we don’t know yet.’ So we’re still working on it,” Perez said. “I mean, it’s going to take a long time but with all the prayers, and all the therapy and all the love, all the good food, all this hassle maybe it’s going to happen one time.”


 

The Ricky King Fund of Southwest Florida is holding a rug sale fundraiser Saturday in Naples to help address the medical needs of children who are facing health-care hardships.

A local retailer, Designers’ Rug Center, has donated 70 rugs in many styles and shapes for the event valued at $35,000. The rug sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Trianon Centre building at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Park Shore Drive.

The Ricky King Children’s Fund was established in 1978 by the family and friends of 4-year-old Ricky King, who died of Reye’s syndrome. Ricky’s father was the late Rich King, a long-time local radio personality.

The mission of the fund is to provide an avenue for individuals, corporations and organizations to support the unmet medical needs of children in the region and to improve the quality of their lives.

For more information, go to www.rickykingfund.org.


 

Boats decked out in holiday decorations will light up Naples Bay on Saturday to raise money for a children’s charity, and it’s not too late for interested captains to add their vessel to the fleet.

Boaters and community members who participate in the 17th annual Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade are asked to donate to the Ricky King Fund, a foundation that provides financial help to families of children with unmet medical needs, said Frank Perrucci, director of the Marine Industries Association of Collier County, the event sponsor.

All of the money raised during the parade will benefit the fund.

The flotilla will set off from the upper part of the bay at 6 p.m. led by the Naples Princess and will pass by the Naples City Dock for judges to critique decorations. From the City Dock the boats will travel down Naples Bay, passing Bay View Park and then turning around to retrace their path. Awards and gift certificates will be awarded to the best decorated boats.

Last year the parade raised about $6,500, Perrucci said.

Local boat captains interested in decorating their boats and joining the flotilla can enter by attending the captains meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at The Boat House Restaurant on Naples Bay, 990 Broad Ave. S., or calling the marine industry association office at 261-0882.


 

Come along for a trip out of town to a very curious shop.

It is in south St. Louis on Cherokee Street, five funky blocks laden with antiques in the Cherokee-Lemp Historic District.

The shop stands out to first-time visitors such as those from Naples because it is in two parts. One part has a name more apropos to Florida Jasper’s Tropical Fruit Gift Baskets. A Web site says Jasper invented them. Another boasts of him selling one to the mayor.

The other part is called Jasper’s Antique Radio Museum.

We will tune in there at the risk of appearing to diminish the legacy of an icon of St. Louis and Naples radio who is remembered there.

You see, Jasper’s is not Cooperstown. As one respondent to a Web site about St. Louis tourist attractions put it, “Gaack! This is not a museum. It’s a creepy, dirty, weird little storefront with a lot of radios stacked all over the place.”

But, as the icon would be the first to agree, this is funny.

Jasper Jasper Giardina, if you please sees his emporium differently. “The museum is dedicated to the preservation of radio history, with the purpose to bring old radios back to life,” his Web site explains. “My goal is to help you with information on finding old radios and restoring them. You are welcome to look at hundreds of radios that I have on display.”

Jasper says his aim is to “help any fellow collector and any young person interested in radios  especially a young person who has no radios at all. I take pride in giving them their first radio as a start to their collection.

“All sizes, shapes and makes, some dating back to the 1800s.

“… When they are gone there will be no more.”

There are radios. And more radios. And more radios.

There is the elder Jasper himself.

There are pictures. Lots of pictures. They are of celebrities ranging from NASCAR drivers to movie and radio stars.

Many of these celebrities have their arms around Jasper.

These photos adorn the walls and fronts of shelves.

But it was a photo resting on the floor, near a cash register, that gave me a shock. A real heart-thumper.

“Do you know that fellow?” I said to Jasper, pointing at one of the four or five men whose dated, black-andwhite publicity photos share a frame of about 3 feet wide by 4 feet deep. “Or did you know that fellow?”

Jasper looked down, paused and thought deeply.

He scratched his head.

He thought some more.

Then it came to him.

“King Richard,” Jasper said of the handsome, thin face alongside sportscasters Harry Caray and Jack Buck.

“That is King Richard.”

King Richard indeed.

We knew him here as Rich King.

Following a stellar career in radio in St. Louis as well as San Diego, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Milwaukee, King graced Naples and Southwest Florida airwaves for 12 years prior to his death in 2003 after three bouts with cancer. He kept making comebacks to assure fellow sufferers they were not alone.

In the St. Louis days, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, he was a rock jock.

Here he ruled talk radio on WNOG later regionalized into WINK-WNOG and did TV too on Comcast.

He knew to talk to and with his audience, not at his audience. Though it was his show and he was the star, he knew listeners wanted to hear his guests and callers. He just kept things moving along accentuating the positive and needling the pompous. He had one of those magic minds that clicked faster than everyone else’s. King’s legacy lives on via his skill and the Ricky King Fund, named after the 4-year-old son whose death in 1978 led dad to crusade for research that found the aspirin link to Reye’s Syndrome and saved countless young lives.

The story about Naples travelers stumbling across a remembrance of King in a south St. Louis junk shop is oddly typical. Naples visitors from Cincinnati used to turn on the radio here and have startling flashbacks. Once he was overheard in a crowd and asked if he were Rich King in Germany.

Those were the days.

Now his St. Louis radio station, KWK, is gone.

So is WNOG. Three years after the loss of King’s golden touch, the pioneering “Wonderful Naples on the Gulf” brand has given way to simply WINK News.

Another object for a museum.


The Ricky King Children’s Fund is pleased to announce that The League Club, Inc. has awarded The Ricky King Children’s Fund a $4,000 grant from their Community Trust Fund to help fund medical equipment for handicapped children.
The League Club, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) organization whose purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. The League Club supports the community through annual grants to non-profit agencies from their Community Trust Fund. More information about The League Club can be found on-line atwww.theleagueclub.org.

As recipients of the Culinary Concept Charities Grant, two of The Ricky King Fund’s King’s Kids were able to participate in Kids’ Club Dinners. A Kids’ Club Dinner is a one of a kind heart warming event held for a child with a life threatening illness or particular life trouble. The child, parents and supporters (6 people maximum) are treated to a night of entertainment, five star service and incredible food.
Nolan April 5, 2006 – Chops Bonita

Dominique September 6, 2006 Yabba Island Grill


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA SOAPFEST (JUNE 17-18, 2006) Selects RKCF as RecipientDaytime television actors return to Southwest Florida for the 7th year for a star-studded weekend to raise money for charity. On June 17 -18, George Alvarez, Kim Zimmer, Ricky Paull Goldin, Michael O’Leary, Marie Masters, Gina Tognoni, Sarah Brown, John-Paul Lavoisier and Dan Gautier will join many actors from All My Children, As The World Turns, The Bold and The Beautiful, One Life To Live, General Hospital and Guiding Light will mingle with Southwest Florida residents and visitors for a weekend of non-stop cruises, parties, and fun – fun – fun.

This event benefits the following charities: The Ricky King Children’s Fund provides financial assistance and medical equipment to children and their families in time of need. Additional information can be found at www.rickykingfund.org. Eden-Florida provides educational and outreach services for children and adults with autism. Additional information can be found at www.edenservices.org. Hospice of Marco provides compassionate care and support for anyone touched by a life-limiting illness. Additional information can be found at www.hospiceofnaples.org.

For additional information or tickets call, 239-394-4559 , email soapfest@vsm.net, or visit http://www.soapfest.com


ANNUAL FUNDRAISER – Casino Night 2005 (Full Story)
Joan King and Tammy Kipp
Carol Anti & Heather Rivers
Maryann and Frank Perrucci
Patrick Junkroski
Johnny Nocera

Tax Deductable donations can be sent to:
The Ricky King Children’s Fund
5051 Castello Drive #21
Naples Florida 34103
Or here online. Simply click on “Make A Donation”. Thank you.


First Annual Ricky King Fund Golf Scramble Registration Sign
Tammy Turner Kipp, Jennifer King Weidenbruch and Amy Turner
Golfers at the Starting Line
Dave Goodenough’s Team
Jennifer King Weidenbruch at the Raffle Table.
Luncheon at the Club at Renaissance
Prize Table
Joan King, Daniel King Weidenbruch and Jennifer King Weidenbruch

Children’s playroom at North Collier Hospital to be dedicated in memory of Rich King

 

Dan Wagner / Staff
Three-year-old Carrie Sanchez of Naples sorts through toys in the new playroom of the pediatrics department of North Collier Hospital in North Naples. The room, called Kids Korner, is in memory of Rich King, a longtime local radio personality who died in June.

Reprinted from The Naples Daily News
March 8, 2004By LIZ FREEMAN, epfreeman@naplesnews.com

Children with illnesses and diseases that lead to hospital stays at North Collier Hospital have reason to smile and laugh these days, despite feeling pain or weak and wanting to go home.

They have a brand new playroom in the pediatrics department, brightly decorated and full of new toys, books, DVDs and games to make the time pass a little easier.

Jo Loewel and Mayor Bill Barnett

The new Kids Korner playroom has been created in memory of Rich King, a longtime radio personality for WINK/WNOG who died last year and left behind legions of devoted fans and family. King was known for his love of children, the community and his frank but amiable demeanor on the airwaves regarding political issues, both local and beyond. He died June 21 from pancreatic cancer, his third bout with cancer. He was 68.

” He would have loved this more than anything,” Joan King, his wife, said of the playroom in his memory.

Ribbon cutting – Ed Morton, Jim Colletta, Bill Barnett, Dan, Brian, Heather and Joan.

A dedication ceremony for Kids Korner will be Friday, March 12, at 4 p.m. in the pediatrics unit at North Collier, off Immokalee Road in North Naples. The event is open to the public and invitations went out to 700 supporters.

Donations were sent to The Ricky King Children’s Fund for a memorial and the idea of the playroom was suggested by hospital staff.

The Ricky King Children’s Fund was founded by the Kings in 1978 in memory of their late son, Ricky, who died of Reyes Syndrome when he was 4. The charity, run by a local board of directors, provides financial assistance to ill children and their families who need help and contributes money to local children’s health-care programs.

King Family
Pictured from right: Joan King with children: Heather, Danny, Brian & Brian’s fiance, Heather.

” We were trying to think of some special project,” Joan King said, referring to her husband’s memorial. “The hospital came up with the idea. They had a playroom. It was bleak and had just a few toys.”

The walls and carpet were gray and King said she knew just the right person to call, Jo Alaimo, an interior designer with Robb & Stucky who was a friend of her late husband’s.

Now, each wall in the playroom is a different color and the carpet is glow-in-dark with a Disney theme, there’s an entire book collection, DVDs and games. One wall has a mural done by local artist, Jeff Feffenden.

Toys and furniture donated by the Rich King Memorial Fund

“Now the room is filled every day with kids using it,” King said. “And there are things they can take back to their rooms.”

All in all, about $10,000 from donations to the memorial went into the project, she said.

At Friday’s dedication, Naples Mayor Bill Barnett will cut the ribbon. Barnett also is co-chairman of The Ricky King Fund. A plaque will be hung in the playroom in honor of the late radio personality.

Disney-themed mural painted by Jeff Feffenden

Christmas Boat Parade raised $2,300
for Ricky King Fund

 

Reprinted from The Naples Daily News
January 21, 2004The Ricky King Children’s Fund will benefit by more than $2,300, thanks to the sponsors of the 2003 Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade. 

Checks totaling $2,347 were presented to the fund Tuesday night during the January meeting of the Marine Industries Association of Collier County.

A spokesman for the association said the charity selected for the 2003 boat parade proceeds is The Ricky King Children’s Fund, the same beneficiary of the 2002 boat parade.

The Ricky King Children’s Fund was set up by the community and late radio personality Rich King after his son, Ricky, died of Reye’s Syndrome in 1977 when he was 4 years old. The fund is dedicated to helping improve the quality of health care for Southwest Florida children, often by providing financial assistance to both the youngsters and their families.

While there is no formal fee for participating in the parade, boaters are asked to make donations that are then given to a charity of choice, the Marine Industries Association spokesman said.

The 2003 boat parade, held Dec. 13 between Naples City Dock and Bayview Park, was called “A Tinsel Town Christmas.”

At the association’s Tuesday night meeting, held at R.J. Mackies Restaurant on Goodlette-Frank Road, plaques were presented to 2003 boat parade winners. They are:

— Overall winner, Mick Anderson, boat name Biking on the Bay.

— Powerboat winner up to 30 feet, Jason Helmer, boat name The Regal.

— Powerboat winners 31 feet to 40 feet, tie between Kevin Burns, boat name Auspicious, and the Von Liebigs, boat name Mariposa.

— Powerboat winner 41 feet and longer, Kevin Thomas, boat name Shazam.

— Sailboat winner up to 35 feet, Bill Irwin, boat name Knot Worried.

— Sailboat winner 36 feet and longer, Dave Hutchinson and Debbie Zeller, boat name Good Life.

— Commercial winner up to 40 feet, Mick Anderson, boat name Just Biking on the Bay.

— Commercial winner 41 feet and over, MarineMax, boat name Leading Lady.

Arhaus Fundraiser

On the weekend of November 14, 2003, Arhaus furniture (http://www.arhaus.com/) held a marvelous fundraising event. Ten percent of all sales that weekend were donated to The Ricky King Children’s Fund. 

The weekend was kicked off by a Thursday evening Chinese auction in which a dozen items from the Arhaus inventory were given away. Among them, an exquisite hand-made leather chair, finished on-site by a master craftsman over a three-hour period.


Patrick Junkroski and MaryAnn Sarazen
 

Guests enjoying the fundraiser.

Guests delighted in samples of Asian, Italian and French cuisine while purchasing tickets for the auction. The RKF offers thanks to Arhaus for a wonderful evening and generous donations.
Bill and Chris Barnett.
Joan O’Connor wins a hand-crafted leather chair.
Tracey Wasen, John Reed – President of Arhaus, and Joan King.

A $50,000 donation!

Rich and Joan King accept the gracious donation
The Naples Winter Wine Festival, held in February, raised over five million dollars this year by auctioning rare and fine wines to hundreds of participants from all over the U.S. and Europe. At a ceremony held on April 1, The Naples Children and Education Foundation, sponsor of the Wine Festival, presented the Ricky King Foundation with a check for $50,000, representing the largest single donation the Foundation has ever received. Rich and Joan King, founders, were on hand to receive the check. The money is earmarked to help children in Collier County with special needs that aren’t being met by insurance or other means.
If you live in Collier County and have a child with special medical needs that insurance isn’t covering, please fill out our online application.

For more information about the Naples Winter Wine Festival, please visit their website.

Building up Charities’ Bank Accounts
Saturday, April 12, 2003
By PAUL HERRERA, Business Editor, Naples Daily News

Sandra Brim, executive director of Partners for Breast Cancer Care, has been rooting for the real estate market this year.

The Lee County charity is one of four to split a $101,000 donation from four Arthur Rutenberg home-building franchises in Southwest Florida. During the past five months the companies have set aside $1,000 from the sale of each home priced below $1 million and $2,000 for homes above that line for a program called Building Better Lives.

A.R.B.C Corporation is one of four Arthur Rutenberg franchises combining to donate $101,000 to local charities as part of the Building Better Lives project. Gary Coronado/Staff”Our total budget is just over $100,000,” Brim said. “So this is a huge help to us.”

The nonprofit, founded as part of a breast cancer education project by the University of Vermont in 1991, provides services and educational programs in low-income areas throughout the county. The university project, and the grant money supporting it, ended in 1995, but Brim has continued the effort on a tiny budget built from a handful of regular fund-raisers.

Brim’s effort caught the attention of Bobby Lyons, president of Lyons Housing and ARH Marketing Group, who designated Partners for Breast Cancer Care as the franchise’s charity for a share of the total.

Money from the Building Better Lives program, which has totaled more than $75,000 over three years, has helped the nonprofit double its workload. Now Brim said she hopes to get word of the group’s services to more of the community.

Building Better Lives began in 2001 with the Arthur Rutenberg franchises setting aside $1,000 from each home sold to build the pot. In its inaugural year, the companies handed over $96,000 to four charities. Each franchise selects a beneficiary of one-quarter of the total. Last year, the franchises collected $108,000.

This year, despite a much-slowed local economy that has permeated home sales, the franchises maintained nearly the same level.

“It was a struggle, but we were fortunate to be able to generate that amount for the charities,” said John Globetti, president of A.R.B.C. Corporation, one of the four participating franchises.

A.R.B.C.’s share of the money will go to the Immokalee Child Care Center. The center provides day-care services and early education for children of the working poor in the Collier County community.

“They really came through for us,” said Valarie Bostic, executive director of the Immokalee Child Care Center. “We use a lot of our money for a tuition assistance program so the parents can afford the cost of child care.”

Three of the four charities chosen focus on children. Keystone Custom Homes, a former franchise that was sold in January, chose The Ricky King Children’s Fund. The fund helps critically ill children afford services and medical help their families can’t afford and insurance won’t cover.

“It could be something as simple as a generator for a child who is on a breathing apparatus,” said Dawn Montecalvo, the fund’s executive director in Southwest Florida. “In the summer with the power outages, they need to have a power source that will keep working. Those are all things not covered by insurance or, if they’re low income, it’s a luxury.”

Toussel Homes, a builder franchise in Naples, chose Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida. The national nonprofit grants wishes for kids with life-threatening illness.

The program ran from November through the end of March, giving the franchises the prime months of the winter season to raise the money. The companies build homes in The Brooks, Palmira, Olde Cypress, Shadow Wood Preserve, TwinEagles, Rookery Pointe and various other communities in Southwest Florida.

Contact Business Editor Paul Herrera at 213-6037 or phherrera@naplesnews.com

Lifestyles – March 17, 2003

Talk radio’s Rich King retires

Broadcaster battling cancer

By DENISE L. SCOTT, dscott@news-press.com

Conservative talk radio host Rich King — programmed into the telephone speed dial of faithful listeners throughout Southwest Florida — has retired from his morning slot on WINK-1200 AM/WNOG-1270 AM.

King was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in March 2002 and took medical leave from “The Rich King Show” in mid-December. This is his third battle with cancer in 10 years.

King joined WNOG in Naples 12 years ago and was simulcasting on WINK for the past six. His producer and fill-in host, Josh Knauer, 37, of Naples, has taken over the show.

“To say he’s touched the minds and hearts of thousands of people in Southwest Florida would not be overstated,” Meridian Broadcasting program director Bob Grissinger said.

King was not always the talk radio host who politely provoked listeners to analyze local, national and world events. Once upon a time, he was rock ‘n’ roll DJ “King Richard.”

While resting at his home in Naples, the Chicago native recounted his evolution from the job at an AM rock station he worked at while a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

“It was a far-out place,” King said.

After graduating from Marquette in 1956, King had to choose between Harvard and a radio career. A job offer at a top St. Louis rock station sealed his fate.

“That was a wild five years,” King said. “I was out on three or four appearances in one night. St. Louis was a great music town.”

In 1962, he moved to another rock station in San Diego, followed by a contemporary adult music station in Cincinnati. While at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati, King Richard evolved into Rich King.

“I was getting older,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to be King Richard when I’m 63.’ I thought there had to come a time when I got into adult radio.”

AM was mainstream radio then and King interviewed nearly every personality who came to town: Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter as well as Bob Hope, Elvis Presley and countless other entertainers.

He said Hope was the most delightful celebrity to interview. As for Elvis, “He was very nice. He was obviously on something, but he was very nice.”

King said he purposely has kept few celebrity friends.

“I wasn’t particularly fond of people in the industry because they took themselves so seriously,” he said. “Even people in the smaller markets would get that persona and thought they were major figures in the world.”

His wife, Joan, said he has always been down to earth.

“He’s always said, ‘I hate broccoli, cocktail parties, chit-chat and waiting in line,’ ” she said. “In a way, he’s shy. But when he has to be in front of the microphone, he turns into a different person.”

King simply loves talking to people.

“There are people who call regularly and become characters on the show,” he said. “They can be an enormous pain in the neck or become part of the interaction. Most people are very funny.”

Cindy Kucharski of North Fort Myers has listened to King for six years and called nearly every day.

“I’m kind of a talk radio junkie,” she said. “I worked part time and home-schooled, so it started as a background thing I had on. Then I was compelled to call in for comments from the peanut gallery.”

Tony Phelan, owner of Pincher’s Crab Shack, started listening to King while driving to Pine Island every day, then he became an advertiser. “(King) came out and inspected the place,” Phelan said about his restaurant. “If you say ‘fresh grouper,’ he says, ‘Show me the fresh grouper.’ ”

Events, some tragic, helped keep King grounded as he developed a large fan base — including “Late Show” host David Letterman, who listed King as one of his influences in “The David Letterman Story.” He cited King’s idea to rally excitement over a race between two slow-moving river ferry boats for a charity.

“I spent two-thirds of my work on charity stuff,” King said. “To me, broadcasting was making money for people who needed help.”

His charity work became a more personal crusade when his 4-year-old son, Ricky, died of Reye’s Syndrome. Ricky was one of King’s five adopted children from Mexico, Vietnam and the United States.

The Kings created The Ricky King Children’s Fund, which raised more than $1 million in Ohio to help discover the link between Reye’s Syndrome and aspirin when given to children with the flu or chicken pox.

Money from the fund pays for equipment for children with severe mental and physical disabilities. It helped about 40 local families in 2002.

King’s career has thrived in Southwest Florida, but his health has not. He battled and beat esophageal cancer in 1993 and prostate cancer in 1999.

“When I had cancer of the esophagus, I had a 3 percent chance of survival,” King said. “Within five months, I would be gone. I was told by at least 10 doctors to wrap it up, make my will and forget it.”

He only missed work a few times because of chemotherapy and radiation.

“My doctor said, ‘It’s really important for you, a Type A (personality), to get back to work, or you’re going to go crazy and this is going to kill you,’ ” King said.

So he did as the doctor ordered. At one point, King actually got chemotherapy treatments from a battery-powered kit in the studio.

“The batteries were in backward and started on fire while I was on the air,” he said. “It was attached to my hip on a fanny pack and was smoking and started to flame a little bit.”

He kept right on doing the show, signaling for his engineer to put out the fire.

King’s abdominal cancer had been misdiagnosed for more than a year. After finally getting treatment, he switched his show from the afternoon to the morning in May 2002 but is now too weak to work.

His son Danny King, 24, remembers the last time the doctors expected the worst.

“I remember him telling us he wasn’t going anywhere. He had too much to do here still,” he said, recalling a father who taught his brood to blow bubbles and play ball in the back yard.

“He’s always beaten the odds,” Danny King said. “He’s so determined. You could give him a week and he’ll last 10 years. He’s not going down until he’s ready.”

Reprinted with permission from the Ft Myers News Press.