Greg Hill Discusses His Foundation’s 2,841 Days Celebration Gala Next Week

Greg Hill is a household name here in Boston – the popular morning show host on WAAF, who has raised nearly $2 million with his Foundation that is dedicated to helping local families. Next Thursday, he is hosting a fundraiser at the swanky UMass Club in Boston to raise money for his Foundation that responds to immediate requests for assistance by local families touched by tragedy through matching the charitable donations of Hill’s media audience.

Mayor Marty Walsh, Greg Hill and Governor Charlie BakerPhoto Credit: The Greg Hill Foundation

We caught up with Hill this morning to discuss his haute event next week, give us an inside look at some of his beneficiary’s stories and why this year’s Boston Marathon is going to be so special.

Why did you feel compelled to create the Foundation back in 2010?

I was celebrating the 20th anniversary of our morning radio show and was thinking about how I could give back to the community. For people listening to the show for 20 years and being such loyal listeners, I had always thought there was an opportunity for something like this, and remember, this was back before Crowdfunding and all those websites existed. We would always hear about these awful things that happened, people would call in to help out, but back then, it would take a week or so to set up a fund through a credit union. I wanted to be able to focus on helping that specific person that day. Since the Foundation was formed, we have raised nearly $2 million. We are just $70,000 from hitting that mark.

Can you talk a little about some of your most meaningful beneficiary stories?

It’s interesting because each one is different. I have been so overwhelmed by how generous people are. The marathon certainly comes to mind. We were hosting our fundraiser at The Capital Grille on Boylston Street when the bombs went off across the street. It was a very scary day. We immediately went on the air and raised $455,000. All of the hard work is done by the people who work for the Foundation. They went to the hospitals to try to find out who the survivors were. It was a very difficult chore. We ended up donating to 66 survivors. Every beneficiary story is special, but from a mass community caring effort, things like this remind us how caring a community we really are.

I have been on the radio for 28 years and felt we really have the opportunity to do good, so we have an obligation to do so. The beneficiaries say to me they are always amazed by people who don’t know them and will probably never meet them, who have donated to them. That inspires me. I’m not sure you could do that in any other city. People here have the biggest hearts of anybody. Two days ago, we heard of a man from Roslindale who walked over to shovel his neighbor’s driveway when a tree branch hit him and he is paralyzed from the waist down now. By noon on Wednesday, just six hours later, we had raised $60,000 for him.

It’s one of those things that it is such a privilege to be able to help. For the beneficiaries to go through some of the worst times in their lives, they realize they aren’t alone. We have raised money for State Trooper Clardy’s family. His widow told me several times it gave her hope when she realized that people care about her and her children.

The Greg Hill FoundationPhoto Credit: The Greg Hill Foundation

Tell us a little about next week’s haute event and what an attendee can expect.

This event is one in which we give those who donated the opportunity to hear from the beneficiaries and how they have changed their lives. In the past, we have had courageous people over the years talk about how the donors changed their lives and tell us how they have been able to carry on. To see people go through excruciatingly painful experiences losing a loved one, losing a child, becoming injured or losing a leg watching the marathon, to hear how they have turned it into something positive is incredible. It’s the best event we do and I think it’s a cathartic experience as well for the beneficiaries to tell their story.

With the five-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings coming up next month, how special is this year going to be for your foundation’s team of runners?

I just recently started running because I was getting fatter and fatter and fatter (laughs). I’m in awe of our marathon team. Five years is significant for the simple fact we get exposed to our beneficiaries. Our marathon team gets to meet many of them. The strength and courage the marathon bombing victims have found to go on, persevere and triumph is just so inspiring.

The Greg Hill Foundation MarathonPhoto Credit: The Greg Hill Foundation

You’ve been hosting your radio show for 25 years. What do you think has been the secret to your successful longevity as one of Boston’s most favorite morning shows?

More than likely, I was supposed to be fired or someone in corporate just forgot about me (laughs). Actually, I think it’s pretty simple that when people wake up, they can be in a grumpy, miserable mood. They want me to make them laugh. We have a real talented group of people on the show. We are all from here; we don’t pretend to be from here. Plus, people in Boston don’t like change.

Who has been your most favorite interview?

I’m 51, so it’s hard for me to remember everyone over the course of 28 years, but I really enjoy interviewing regular people more than celebrities. I have had  everyone from Mark Wahlberg to George Bush, Sr. on the show, but I really enjoy conversing with local people.

Anyone you would like to have on the show who you haven’t been able to yet?

The only guest I would love to have a four-hour exclusive interview with is Bruce Springsteen.

What’s up next for your hospitality empire?

We have two exciting projects coming up, but I can’t really talk about either just yet. Right now, we are focusing on Battle Road Brewing and looking to expand that brand with not only new styles, but developing Battle Road concepts on premise.

Greg HillPhoto Credit: The Greg Hill Foundation