For six days, from December 3 to 8, Mark Curdo will be on the air 21 hours a day in the cramped radio studio of WCYY in Portland, taking requests and playing music. There’s a reason for this madness--an excellent one, in fact: Curdo will play any song that listeners request, no matter how weird or wretched, in return for a donation to the Center for Grieving Children in Portland. The event is known as Markathon, and in this year’s tenth edition he hopes to raise about $80,000.
You don’t have to be crazy to stay on the radio for 126 hours over six straight days, but you do need to have the ability to speak coherently even when utterly exhausted. So when Markathon is over and Curdo gets the chance to go home for the first time in nearly a week (during Markathon he sleeps on the studio floor so he won’t get too comfortable and lapse into too deep a slumber), what happens?
“I wipe out,” he says. “I try to watch the Celtics because usually there’s a Celtics game that night, but I don’t know who I’m fooling. I usually sleep till noon the next day, and the next day or two after that it takes a little bit to get back into shape. But I come back around.”
Curdo is quick to share credit for the success of Markathon over the years with donors, sponsors, listeners, guests who drop in, co-workers who help keep the show on the air, and a host of others. But, really, it’s his baby. And if things go well, when he leaves the studio this year after playing the final request the grand total raised over ten years may reach a cool half million dollars. Which, he’d be the first to say, is worth a little sleep deprivation.