|Friday, September 14, 2001
|More than $39,000 was raised for the Red Cross
Botetourt boy unites radio listeners in donation drive
|All Dylan Coleman wanted was tickets to see Kenny Chesney, but he came away with so much more.
By JOE KENNEDY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
The catastrophic deaths from terrorism in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania have left Americans with a bulging sense of helplessness. They watch television scenes of horror and yearn, somehow, to help.
Thursday morning, a Botetourt County boy tapped into that vein. Out came a flood of money from people feverish to show they care.
The story started about 6:50 Thursday morning. Disc jockeys Chuck Marsh and Robynn Jaymes of radio station WSLC announced that they had tickets to give away for country singer Kenny Chesney's concert tonight in Greensboro, N.C.
Because of the pall caused by the terrorism to the north, they elected not to stage the usual listener contest. Instead they would take bids and give the proceeds from the winner to the American Red Cross.
Dylan Coleman, 7, heard the announcement while riding with his mother, Wendy Coleman, to his day-care center, where he'd catch a bus to his second-grade class at Breckinridge Elementary School in Fincastle. He called the station on his mother's cellphone so he could bid. He likes Chesney well enough to put his entire bank account of $50 on the line.
His mom got through and Dylan made his bid. Someone else had already put in $60, but deejay Marsh threw in $20 to put Dylan's bid on top.
As the figure continued to rise, Jaymes tossed in another $20, increasing Dylan's bid.
Then, the phone lines began to light up with other bids on Dylan's behalf. Soon, station staffers were calling the windfall the Dylan Fund.
He won the tickets by a landslide, but the calls kept coming. By early afternoon, the Red Cross had received pledges in excess of $20,000. That was just a start.
Little Dylan stands tall
At the station Thursday afternoon, Dylan sat in a room with his father, Mike. He wore tan shorts and a sleeveless orange shirt. He had a blond crew cut, a Star Country hat that station workers had given him, and a smile.
Four feet tall and weighing 50 pounds, Dylan did not appear to realize that for one day at least, he was one of the biggest guys in town.
He said he likes Chesney "because he sings good." He said his favorite Chesney song is "How Forever Feels."
He said he knew the money would help the disaster victims. He also knew that $20,000 was enough to buy a car, and that the station had upped his prize from two tickets to six, arranged backstage passes and was trying to hire a limousine to transport him and his party to the show tonight.
He felt good.
Mike Coleman, 42, works in the garden department at the Home Depot in Roanoke. His wife, Wendy, 35, teaches at Colonial Elementary School in Botetourt. They have a younger daughter, Baylee, named for Baylee Almon, the 1-year-old who died in the Oklahoma City bombing and gained immortality from the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a firefighter cradling her in his arms.
Donations keep rolling in
Dylan's youthful voice touched listeners the way that picture affected newspaper readers. One man offered to match bids up to $2,000. Another did the same for $1,000. A West Virginia physician pitched in $1,500. Businesses and government workers challenged one another to donate.
Jaymes and March are usually on the air from 6 to 10 a.m. Thursday, but they were still taking calls and broadcasting at 4:30 p.m., despite their boss' effort to make them stop.
By that time, the Dylan Fund stood at $39,173. That doesn't include money delivered directly to the drop box at the Red Cross office in Roanoke. Contributions, marked for the Dylan Fund, can still be dropped off or sent to the Red Cross at 352 Church Ave. S.W., Roanoke, VA 24016.
"We're just overwhelmed," said Amy Whittaker, a Red Cross spokeswoman.
"You want to tell everybody thanks, but how do you do it?" Mike Coleman asked. At Home Depot, he said, he has had to order extra American flags for all the customers who want them.
America "is like a clan," he said. "If you mess with one of us, you mess with us all."
His son could hardly wait to get to the concert.