College TV for a cause: Student-produced RTN telethon to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey

In preparation for the seventh annual RTN Telethon, students conduct an interview with family members at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey. Students are looking to raise $6,500 during the five-hour telethon on Wednesday, April 9. It will air on RTN's Channel 5 and via the worldwide web at It started out as an annual production for a great cause. But, for Rowan University students, the Rowan Television Network’s (RTN) Telethon has since become much more. It’s become a labor of love.“We can’t stay away. We love being there and interacting with the children and their families. We want to be as involved as we can,” said telethon co-producer Joseph Ponisi, a junior radio/television/film (RTF) major from Holmdel.On Wednesday, April 9, “RTN’s 7th Annual Telethon” will air from 7 p.m.-midnight on Rowan University’s Channel 5. Additionally, it will stream live worldwide at  The Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey (RMH-SNJ) is a nonprofit organization that provides a home-away-from-home for children and their families. The house attracts children and their families from around the country—and sometimes from around the world—who are undergoing medical treatment at the nearby Cooper University Hospital in Camden. Produced exclusively by Rowan students and featuring the talents of more than 50 RTN members, the five-hour broadcast from the studios of Bozorth Hall will feature interviews with families and staff members from the house, musical guests, videos concerning the organization, skits and even an appearance by Ronald McDonald himself.VolunteeringTo get a better sense of the organization’s impact, RTN students have been actively volunteering at the RMH-SNJ for the past five months. RTN is looking to raise $6,500 for the house and the students have seen firsthand how the organization benefits children and their families.“Ronald McDonald House is a place where these families can really feel like they’re at home,” said telethon co-producer Deanna Lugo, a senior RTF major with a Spanish minor from Ocean City. “Sometimes I walk into this place and I feel at home.”RTN students have volunteered to do a few crafts with the kids and always show up with equipment to do on-camera interviews.“The kids love being on camera. They’ve become our friends,” said Ponisi. “They’re really the happiest kids in the world.”The students’ continuing involvement has caught the attention of more than just the kids.Lesley Wolfe of Syracuse, NY, the mother of a child being treated at Cooper, recently reached out to the RTN student volunteers to thank them for their support.“It’s people like you who take the pain away from the kids and replace it with a very positive, very fun experience,” she posted on RTN Telethon’s official Facebook page.RTN Telethon also has an official Instagram and Twitter. Students and viewers will live tweet during the broadcast using the hash tags #RTNTeleton and #RowanPROUD.On-air talentThe telethon will be hosted by Amber Mathes, a junior RTF and journalism dual major from Hammonton, and Tyler Mulvey, a senior public relations major from Hawthorne.Interviews will be conducted by: Ashley Force of Frederick, MD, a broadcast journalism major with a minor in advertising; Andrew Schobert, a senior RTF major from Burlington; Aris Theofanopoulos, a senior RTF major from Egg Harbor City; Isaiah Showell, a senior journalism major from Pleasantville; Nina Contento, a sophomore RTF major from Estell Manor; Samantha Barrett, a sophomore RTF and journalism major from Keyport; and Maria Brasco, a junior RTF major from Sewell.Headlining musical guests will be: Nalani and Sarina Bolton of Flemington, a twin pop act; Sofia Khorosh (under the stage name Sofia Nicole) an acoustic pop artist from East Brunswick; and No Such Noise, a pop-punk group from Sicklerville.Other musical guests include: Hope Oberwanowicz (under the stage name Hope Vista), an acoustic pop artist from East Brunswick; Hodera, an indie-rock/alternative band; Bri LoBue, a country artist from Old Bridge; Our Fair City, an indie rock/alternative band from Philadelphia; and Mark Nestman, an indie acoustic artist from Rockaway.The musical segments will be hosted by Bria O’Brien, a junior RTF major from Galloway, and Sofya Piro, a senior public relations major from Wildwood.While donations will be accepted online, phone bank operators will be standing by to accept pledges during the broadcast at (856) 347-0786.In the past, the annual RTN Telethon has raised more than $13,000 combined for organizations like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the Make-A-Wish-Foundation and the Waves for Water Restore the Shore Project.About the Ronald McDonald House of SNJLocated in Camden, Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey provides a home-away-from home for seriously ill children and their families. In addition to its residential facility in Camden, Ronald McDonald House operates Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, specially designed waiting areas in pediatric units of nine South Jersey hospitals, to assist families whose children are being treated in those facilities.