The challenge is on the first weekend of December as Detroit-area media personalities compete to raise funds for The Salvation Army Metro Detroit Red Kettle Campaign during the annual Celebrity Bell Ring Weekend. The immensely popular event gives personalities three days to raise as much as they can through virtual red kettles and during a two-hour slot on Saturday when they ring the bell live. Last year, more than $20,000 was raised.
Over the past decade, news anchors from every television station and a myriad of radio personalities such as WCSX’s “Big Jim” and WOMC’s JoAnne Purtan have been part of the event. Last year’s winner was Big Jim, thanks in part to donations from Michigan rock-n-roll legend Bob Seger and Chairman of Emagine Theaters, Paul Glanz.
Originally consisting of a two-hour live ring on the first Saturday of December, the challenge was taken virtual and expanded to three days when the pandemic made a live event impossible. The celebrities were more than happy to campaign for online donations in support of The Salvation Army and have continued to raise funds both online and in person for the past two years.
For several weeks leading up to the competition, more than 50 participants post pictures, videos and other engaging content to encourage members of the community to donate to their virtual or physical red kettles. Good-natured banter between them regarding who will bring in the most helps engage the public.
Year after year fans flock to the locations where their favorite personalities are ringing for a chance to meet them, take selfies, get autographs, and to support The Salvation Army’s Christmas campaign. The event also raises awareness of the work the Army is doing in the Detroit area during the holiday season and throughout the year.
“It has been an honor to do this the past few years,” said WXYZ Morning Anchor Alicia Smith in a Facebook LIVE post. “It’s so much fun…and it’s great to meet all of you.”
Lt. Audrey Sutter, who leads the Downriver, Mich., Corps with her husband Lt. Shawn Sutter, said the Bell Ring Weekend often brings local celebrities back to their hometowns. Lt. Audrey recalled working with Shannon Renee of 105.1 The Bounce radio station in Detroit, who returned to her hometown in the Downriver area in 2021 to work at kettles.
“It was a great way for her to come out and support her old community,” Lt. Audrey said.
Seeing local celebrities is also fun for area residents, she added.
“You get to see the faces of those voices you hear on the radio, and the faces you see on TV in person,” Lt. Audrey said. “And you see that these celebrities really care about their communities. It is awesome.”
When the final amounts are counted, the top three earners are announced on social media and receive a visit from the Detroit area commander who presents a personalized trophy in recognition and gratitude of their support.