Broadcasting a giving spirit
Monday, 19 December 2011 22:22
Written by Admin
RADIO HOST FUNDRAISES TIRELESSLY ON AND OFF AIR
Hot 103 morning show host Ace Burpee and his crew (Chrissy Troy, Lloyd the Intern, aka LTI) know how to have fun on the air and do get a little rowdy, but neither the program nor its host and director is typical of morning radio.
For example, on his Hot 103 blog, Burpee writes, among other things, about the sobering William Kurelek exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. There’s also an Ace Burpee Book Club on the Hot 103 website.
“I would take it as a compliment,” he says, when he’s described as atypical. “I’ve got very diverse interests and, you find out, so do others. People, first thing they want is just to laugh, but if they can laugh and learn something at the same time, they are very grateful.”
Like many in a high-profile broadcasting career, Burpee is a busy man. His station, Hot 103, is the top FM station in the city. For his early morning slot, he wakes up, every weekday, at precisely 3:37 a.m. His team starts their Ace Burpee Show (ABS) at 5:30 a.m. and it goes until 10, Monday to Friday. That’s 22.5 hours of programming to fill each and every week.
But he’s got also all the other work he does on his own time. After work work, he often has an evening or daytime event, usually philanthropic in nature. Currently, his datebook has 340 entries for the year’s 365 days. When asked how he finds balance in his life, he simply says, “I don’t.”
Lately, Burpee has been the “man” in the United Way’s One Man One Hundred Thousand Dollars campaign.
“I thought of it in the summer,” says Burpee, sounding much mellower after another morning show has wrapped. “I try to do as much as I can with the United Way. I thought it was time to step it up a bit, to do something really big. I donate time and money, but I can also use good ideas, and put them to use for the United Way. Whether it’s a piece of art or a song I make up, it’s like an ongoing series of minifundraisers.”
Scott Sime, VP of Marketing and Engagement for the United Way in Winnipeg, often works with Burpee on projects. He says, “I think what Ace brings to the table is complete sincerity and dedication. This is a guy who walks the walk. He really does love this community, and he loves to get involved in different ways, to do things and try to make other people’s lives better. And you don’t sense in it a hint of ego. It really seems to come from a genuine place.”
Burpee’s approach isn’t just about asking for money. There’s a trade-off aspect he likes to incorporate into his events. Like with the Halloween songs his crew recorded, or the October skating party at MTS Centre they hosted.
“Anything original, any idea I own, I think, ‘how can I mould it to become a fundraiser?’,” he says. “All of my fundraising, I don’t want to just ask for money without someone getting something in return.”
Burpee has fundraising ideas that the United Way has never seen before, like having people over to his family’s place at Cooks Creek to run an insane-sounding obstacle course, or enlisting the services of Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce to record a phone message for the winning donor of another contest.
Sime also says that Burpee and his crew show up to “literally dozens and dozens” of workplace United Way fundraisers to help the organization on the ground.
Of course, fans know that the efforts don’t just end there. There are the spontaneous causes, like the ‘I heart Haiti’ T-shirts, the proceeds of which went towards Haitian earthquake relief or the Pray for Japan T-shirts earlier this year, which sported an embedded QR code which allowed people to donate to tsunami relief via their smartphones.
There are also annual initiatives like the Ace Burpee Scholarship, a joint effort of Hot 103 and the Tallman Foundation, in which six Manitoban students are given $3000-scholarships.
“I asked them if they’d like to partner with me,” says Burpee of Tallman. “We find unique kids who might fly under the radar of a traditional scholarship.”
Rather than charities going to him, Burpee often approaches charities.
“I initiate, though I have tons of requests, too, but I make a lot of work for myself,” he says. “On purpose. I start things immediately when they’re required, whether it’s the Haiti earthquake or Japanese tsunami. As soon as something needs attention, we just drop everything and that becomes the main thing.”
Burpee credits his philanthropic approach to life to his parents; his mother works for a mental health organization. “Both my parents have always worked for nonprofits,” he says. “One thing I definitely understood from the get-go was how appreciative organizations are when someone starts something for them.”
Perhaps the charity work is a by-product of Burpee’s own sense of community. He’s a rabid Manitoban; he uses the Manitoba crest as his Twitter icon, he’s constantly giving on-air shout-outs to local institutions like the Bombers, the Jets, and Folklorama or unheralded small towns like Tyndall.
Not surprisingly, Burpee identifies heavily with his upbringing in Cooks Creek, just east of the city. He graduated from Springfield Collegiate, followed by the University of Manitoba, and then went to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology to study journalism. Being a radio personality wasn’t an inevitable career choice for Burpee. At one time, the written word was more his area of focus.
“I used to write commercials at CJOB and then a gentleman named Vic Grant (retired CJOB boss) said one day, “Would you like to do a talk show?” I said, “Of course, I would.”, says Burpee. “I was terrified. I would call it the worst show in the history of the world. I’m making it sound worse than it was, because the guests were great. But it was very short lived.”
Just a few years later, Burpee would have his own show. Some who work with him aren’t surprised by his success.
“People respond very favourably to him,” says Sime. “He’s got a way to take the rigour or stuffiness out of an event and just make it human, genuine and very fun. That sense of pride and optimism and goodness he exudes, I think you internalize it when you’re around him and it’s cool to be around.”
And for his efforts, Burpee finds that he learns more about his home province and the people here.
“The one thing I do find across the board, you always meet the best people and the nicest people involved with some of the hardest situations… You meet so many people who are positive,” he says, followed by a long, signature pause. “That would be the one thing that stands out, meeting people who still actually care about others.”