The Master of Ceremonies
Storm Roberts' generous and gregarious personality — and lucky cowboy boots — have helped him raise millions of dollars for area charities
Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 9:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 9:02 p.m.
Occupation: Radio personality and morning show host at WKTK
Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism and communications from the University of Florida
Family: Married to Judy
Radio personality Storm Roberts first felt the tug to raise money for charity when he auctioned off a football for $5,000 at the Children's Home Society's Puttin' on the Ritz fundraiser at the Oaks Mall in the early 1990s.
Of course, it wasn't just any football. The pigskin was signed by Steve Spurrier, who, at the time, was the hot new football coach in town and the only Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida.
"I'm a bit of a ham. I like to be in front of a crowd and move things along," says Roberts, the host of WKTK's morning show for the past 20 years. "But when that football went for five grand, it was like, 'Man, let's do that again.'"
Since then, the popular radio DJ, whose given name is Robert Whalen, has donated countless hours of his time and talent year after year to raise millions of dollars for area charities, including the Children's Miracle Network, the Alzheimer's Association, Stop! Children's Cancer, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, among others. This fall, he emceed his 23rd annual Heart Walk for the American Heart Association.
Roberts says he seemed to know instinctively how to convince people to gladly give up their money for a good cause.
"You don't have to hold a gun to anybody's head," he says with a laugh. Instead, he uses just the right mix of coaxing and cajoling and praising and poking fun at people. It helps to pick a couple of people in the audience — or groups of people — and play one against another, he says.
Once, while auctioning off items for the Children's Miracle Network, he used this strategy to get a group of real estate agents from Re/Max Realty to pony up $42,000 for the privilege of having their company name grace a sign in the new pediatric wing at Shands.
Roberts also shaves his head each year in a show of solidarity for pediatric cancer patients — and in exchange for donations totaling some $10,000 annually to benefit the Children's Miracle Network.
His Rocky Carroll Good Luck Boots help, too.
The boots were a gift from Houston bootmaker Rocky Carroll, who custom designs boots for popes and presidents and such Hollywood celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor. Carroll made a pair of boots for Roberts after Roberts auctioned off three pair of Carroll's designer boots on his morning radio show for $5,000 apiece to benefit a local charity. Roberts has worn the boots to just about every major fundraiser he has hosted ever since.
Roberts says he hosts about 25 to 30 charity events each year – so many that he wears out his tuxedos. But he's also been known to show up in costume. This year, for a 1950s-themed dinner and fundraiser for the Phillips Center he hosted, Roberts and his wife, Judy, dressed as Joey Bag-o-Donuts and his débutante, Marie. The couple dressed as pirates for a Florida Museum of Natural History fundraiser in the spring.
"It was the first time I wore 'guy-liner,'" Roberts quips about the eye make-up he wore that night.
For a Sweet Magnolia Night fundraiser to benefit Stop! Children's Cancer, Roberts donned a white suit and hat to become Colonel Harlan Sanders.
"There's something about the role-playing that's just a lot of fun," Roberts says.
With or without costumes, Roberts says he loves to use his talents to raise money for charities mostly because it makes him feel good.
"I get more pleasure out of that than just about anything in life."
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