The filming, acting and excitement that the movie “Radio” brought to Walterboro in 2003 can’t be easily forgotten by residents.
Downtown was recreated to look like City of Anderson in bygone years. Citizens were hired to be extras on the set, caterers enjoyed the additional customers and income, the old Walterboro football stadium held masses of “fans” there to act out several scenes, and people had a wonderful time watching all of the action during filming. It was eventful for Colleton County, and everyone who enjoyed meeting the individuals involved in the story that centers around a mentally challenged man named James “Radio” Kennedy.
In the true storyline that occurred in Anderson, T.L. Hanna High School’s football coach Harold Jones befriended Radio, who became a student at the school. Their friendship extended over several decades, as Radio transformed from a fearful, bullied man into an inspiration to the community — as does the coach, who teaches the town that caring for people is more important than winning football championships.
The movie raised enough money to provide housing for Radio’s family: his older brother Walter’s family, Radio and his little brother Cool Rock (George), who has the same disability as Radio. But everyone has since passed away except for Cool Rock.
“We were concerned about what would happen to Cool Rock, but Walter’s daughter Jackie stepped up and assumed responsibility,” said Jones. “She took care of Radio for a while before he died from kidney disease, and now she is taking care of Cool Rock. Jackie Kennedy is a wonderful woman.”
But Jones misses Radio and their times together. “In the last two games of the season before he died, Radio was sick and had to lead the team out while riding in a golf cart. The team showed him honor and respect by walking along side of the cart instead of running out on the field,” said Jones.
Jones laughed and remembered the time when the movie was filming in Walterboro at the old football stadium. “It was freezing cold outside, and I was having a hard time keeping Radio still, not because of the cold, but because he kept insisting that he needed to go out on the field and lead the team in. I told him no, that it was time to give Cuba Gooding Jr. a chance to lead the team. I told Radio to let Cuba take a turn,” said Jones.
The movie and story did a lot to bring attention to the plight of many disabled and mentally challenged people who are bullied and tormented. “People need to understand that these mentally challenged individuals are no different from us in needing love and feeling frightened and hurt when bullied,” Jones said.
For Colleton residents who have been glum and despondent during COVID, maybe it is time to revisit the Radio’s wonderful, uplifting story, remember what’s really important in life, and honor the people who lived the experience.
“We want to honor Radio’s life,” said Jones. “He loved to fish with the kids at the Outdoor Dream Foundation. My son, Brad, started the non-profit in 2004 and we have continued with the help of volunteers and donations all these years.”
From Oct. 9-14, a virtual online event will commemorate the man who was called Radio and his life.
The Outdoor Dream Foundation is sponsoring the first annual James Robert “Radio” Kennedy Memorial Celebration. The foundation is a non-profit organization that provides outdoor activities and adventures to children who have been diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illnesses.
During the virtual event, there will be daily presentations and live drawings on Facebook, as well as an online auction sponsored by www.SouthernOakCompany.com. There is also a chance to win a Yeti 65-quart cooler filled with Radio’s favorite items.
“Because of COVID, we have to fundraise virtually, and we still need sponsors,” said Jones. Donors and ticket buyers will receive free Radio t-shirts. Gold-level donors who give $800 will receive eight t-shirts. Silver-level $400 donors will receive four shirts, and bronze-level $200 donors will receive two shirts.
Tickets are $30 and include one “Radio” Memorial t-shirt with free shipping.
For tickets or sponsorship information, or to donate auction items, contact Coach Harold Jones, 864-226-8775; Frankie McCleer, 864-630-9340; or email email@example.com.