For radio host Rich Berra, part of the syndicated “Johnjay and Rich” program, helping families in need with events and fund-raisers around the holidays was always a satisfying endeavor.
But several interactions with children in foster care in the Valley, including a heartbreaking conversation about a 2-year-old girl victimized by human traffickers, convinced him that help was needed throughout the year.
The LoveUp Foundation was born.
“Arizona has a lot of kids that need a place to call home,” Rich said during an event at Sibley’s West on Dec. 16. “LoveUp is really a simple message – it only takes one person to help one person.”
Rich and the foundation now offer hope and experiences to thousands of foster children throughout the year. He and partner Johnjay Van Es are also involved with the state’s task force on child welfare.
“There are 15,000 kids in foster care in Arizona,” he said. “That has motivated us to make the charity bigger.”
As part of that end, Rich wrote a children’s book that was released last month, “The Tale of Christmas Steve.”
The book came about through repeated storytelling with his three children; the tale grew and its rhymes were fun. At its essence, the story about ‘Christmas Steve,’ an elf, reinforces the idea that everyone has something unique to offer.
It is available at Sibley’s West and is $20, with proceeds going to LoveUp.
Rich is a familiar figure around Downtown Chandler. His musical group, the Rich Berra Band, has played at The Local, The Perch. Bourbon Jack’s and Murphy’s Law.
He has lived in Chandler or Gilbert since 2006 when he and Johnjay moved the show from Tucson to Phoenix. It airs from 8 am to noon on 104.7 KISS FM and is syndicated nationally to 22 other cities.
He started his radio career in 1984 as a 14-year-old in St. Louis at KYMC. He first was a gofer, helping out when needed. He then got a role doing overnights for the station, even as he was in high school.
That led to a job assisting the morning show, which was the jumping off point to launch a career in San Diego as a producer in 1990. After years behind the glass, he was sought out to host a Top 40 show in Dallas in 1998 and gained fans as a radio personality. A meeting with Johnjay in Austin in 2001 led the duo to pitch themselves as a morning-show pairing; they were lured to Tucson and the rest is history.
The pair’s chemistry stems from the feeling they are brothers.
“We fight all the time, but we agree on the big stuff,” he said.
What’s the secret of their success?
“The key is entertainment,” he said. “It’s fun. People like to feel good.”
Which is what LoveUp is also all about.
He shared that at a recent event, a woman approached him and said the pair’s efforts had helped her 19-year-old sister.
“She said, ‘You changed the trajectory of our family,’” Rich said. “It’s all about a hand up, not a hand out.”