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RADIO

All About "Radio"
The story of Radio is essentially about a great friendship that develops between two men who, through their example, touch the hearts and minds of everyone around them.

In 1996, director/producer Mike Tollin picked up the latest issue of Sports Illustrated while on a ski vacation and read an article by award-winning writer Gary Smith entitled Someone to Lean On. As soon as he was finished, he was compelled to seek out the rights to the story and begin developing it as a feature film.

Tollin has always been a passionate sports enthusiast, which provided a springboard for his early career as a filmmaker. He was nominated for an Oscar® and received a Peabody Award for his documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream. He received several Emmy awards for his documentary work, created other sports-themed films (Varsity Blues, Hardball) with his partner Brian Robbins and made his feature film debut with the baseball comedy Summer Catch.

His interest in Gary Smith's article, however, went beyond his immersion into the world of sports. In 1990, Tollin had led a group of 12 Special Olympians on a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro -- an expedition that would result in an Emmy Award-winning film, while opening Tollin's eyes to the remarkable courage and inner strength of mentally challenged individuals.

Smith's touching and expertly written piece is a portrait of a mentally challenged man, James Robert Kennedy, nicknamed ‘Radio,' who, for more than 40 years, has been Anderson, South Carolina's most beloved citizen. In the early 1960s, Kennedy began hanging around the McCants Jr. High athletic field in Anderson, where he was befriended by the Junior Varsity coach Dennis Patterson and volunteer assistant coach (and later JV coach) Harold Jones. Soon after, he also began to visit the Varsity field at T.L. Hanna High School where James Fraser was then head coach.

Though Radio was extremely shy and inarticulate, the coaches at McCants and Hanna cultivated a friendship with him. His love of music earned him the nickname ‘Radio' and his love of food helped him overcome his initial timidity -- the coaches and players initially coaxed him with snacks and Cokes.

One of the coaches who formed a lifelong bond with Radio was Harold Jones, who along with Patterson, eventually went on to work at Hanna High. Jones became Hanna's track coach, assistant Varsity football coach and, eventually, head Varsity football coach in the 1980s. Radio was one of the school's most avid sports fans and attended most of their events, particularly the football games. Radio also began to sit in on classes at Hanna as an honorary student, a practice he continues to this day, winning the admiration and affection of several generations of students and faculty.

For Smith, a National Magazine Award winner and one of Sports Illustrated's most celebrated writers, Radio's story affirmed his faith in the bonding power of sports. "Radio's story reminds you that great things can transpire through sports. Barriers can be broken down and strong friendships forged."

Interestingly, Smith continues, the competitive world of high school sports is one of the places that mentally challenged people have found a home in America. In doing research for his article about Radio, Smith was surprised to discover that in many schools across the country, men like Radio a

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