Carey’s Corner: Giving Is in the Cards

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Posted By on December 5, 2019
Mathew Blades with child from Cards for Kids

Local DJ puts happiness in hand

By Carey Peña

            I have met a lot of great people over the years. People who are determined to do their part to spread light, love, security, food, shelter and clothing to those in need — not because they have to, but because they want to. This describes radio personality Mathew Blades.

            Blades, who has been in radio for 25 years, is the popular morning host of iHeartRadio’s Mix 96.9, host of the “Fathers Like Me” podcast, and a youth hockey coach. Like many of us, he has screaming busy professional and personal lives. Still, he’s determined to make a more significant impact.

            Enter Cards for Kids.

            For the past five years, Blades and co-host Priscilla Ornelas have been working to build the Cards for Kids program in the Valley. It began with an idea to encourage their morning show listeners to donate $25 gift cards for students at Title 1 schools.

            Good intentions grow, and that’s what happened with this event.

            While it began with $25 gift cards, Cards for Kids has increased to multiple Title 1 schools receiving $50 cards — per student. And this year, they are aiming to give cards to all of the teachers, too. (Gotta love it when teachers are recognized.)

            “We were trying to get into Title 1 schools and inject some energy,” Blades said. “Reach out to that community and wrap our arms around them — literally.”

            Title 1 schools have large concentrations of low-income families and receive federal funds to help support the students. Ninety percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

            “First up,” Blades said, “you have many students who don’t even know what a gift card is. Never even seen a debit card in their life. And once they find out what it is and what’s on it, they lose their mind.”

            Watching video of previous gift card giveaways on their website makes it easy to see why Blades and Ornelas are so connected to this cause. Blades said they even gifted the very school that Ornelas, a Valley native, grew up attending.

            “Two years ago, we were able to go back to the Title 1 school that my co-host Priscilla went to, and we gifted every kid at her school the Cards for Kids program,” Blades said.

            “This program is me to my core. There’s nothing quite like the smile on the faces of the kids. What I get out of it is a sense of … the world’s O.K. And there’s a lot of good kids out there.”

            It’s a project that feels right to Blades. “I think it’s our role as media people to get behind something and do something, but I think it’s more about what speaks to your soul and what makes you feel good about things,” he said.

            When Blades said this to me, I began thinking about my role, too, as a member of the media. Or anyone, for that matter, who has a platform. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to use my public and personal platforms to inspire positive change, encourage conversation and lift people whenever and wherever I can. If we can think outside ourselves about what may make life at least a little bit better for someone else, that’s a win, which is why the work that Blades and Ornelas are doing stands out.

            Rather than signing off their morning show at 10 a.m. and going on about their day in this busy season, they are thinking about the hundreds of children (and teachers) whose lives they can impact.

            And, their listeners love it, too. Blades and Ornelas have had tremendous support from the community as this program continues to grow.

            “When people find something that makes sense to them, and when they find a cause or a program that speaks to them, they want to help,” Blades said. “At their core, people are very good.”

            To learn more, visit mix969.iheart.com.

Carey Pena

About Carey Pena

Carey Peña is an Emmy award winning journalist who majored in broadcast journalism at Arizona State University.