For one day every November, they’re on hundreds of corners, in the rain, sunshine and sometimes snow: volunteers in familiar aprons, selling newspapers to raise money for children’s charities. If you’ve driven anywhere in St. Louis on Old Newsboys’ Day, chances are, you’ve come home with a special edition of the Suburban Journal on your dashboard, and the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped a child.
Old Newsboys Day began in 1957, when the late Duncan Bauman, who would later become publisher of the old Globe-Democrat, wanted to create a fundraiser to team local businesses with high school students and volunteers. The city responded with enthusiasm and Old Newsboys Day has raised more than $11 million for children’s charities since that first November day.
For the second consecutive year, Eagle Bank CEO Michael Walsh served as chairman of Old Newsboys Day. This year’s fundraiser was very successful, even with the difficult economy, Walsh says. “We had about 5,000 volunteers on the streets, including several teams from companies new to the event. When we first approached them about participating, we promised they would have a great time. And you know what? They have all called me and said, We are back in next year—we had a blast!” One example he cites is Steve Noles of Imo’s Pizza. “Steve and his employees take five or six corners,” Walsh says. “Steve told me, Mike, we have the best time, and then we all go to breakfast together. It’s a fantastic way to build morale and team spirit!”
All of the Old Newsboys Day volunteers were especially thrilled to be back in Clayton again. “We have not been able to sell papers in Clayton over the past couple of years,” Walsh explains. “But this year, with the help of the city leadership, especially city manager Craig Owens, we were able to sell papers during breakfast and lunch. It worked out great!”
Walsh recently accepted an invitation to serve as chairman for a third term. “We’ve got a lot of very exciting things going on, and I’d like to see them come to fruition,” he explains. “Our goal is to turn the special edition into a ‘paper of value’ that people seek out.” Walsh says the new approach includes the addition of valuable premiums and coupons in the Old Newsboys’ edition.
More than 200 charities benefit from the Old Newsboys’ campaign, and Walsh says about 80 percent of them are the same from year to year. “The beauty of this charity is that we hold the recipients accountable for the money they receive.” Not every charity can be helped, he adds. “Unfortunately we had more than 500 applications last year, and we could only meet the needs of about 230. It’s very frustrating, because all of the causes are so worthy.”
Reflecting on the charities, Walsh says one story particularly touched him. “This little girl was removed from a dangerous home situation and taken to a foster home. The volunteer gave her a backpack filled with basic necessities. She was astonished that she was allowed to keep it, and told the volunteer she’d never had a toothbrush of her own before—she had always shared one with a sibling.” Walsh says he’s always shocked at the things some children have to do without. “There is no excuse for that to be happening in our community. Now you know why I’ll stay here for another year.”