After a record 125 hours on the air and in the CYY studio, Mark Curdo concluded Markathon 13 on Saturday, Dec. 11 and announced that CYY's 2021 Markathon raised just over $50,000. That number bested last year's total by over $10,000.

Amazing and THANK YOU!

Now, Mark is headed for a well-deserved long winter's nap.

Mark Curdo

Learn More About Markathon and the Amazing Mark Curdo

"Once I'm in there on Monday, I'm there. The door to the studio shuts and we get going."

Mark Curdo is excited to talk all things Markathon, the annual, one-of-a-kind fundraiser that airs on CYY every December and that raises awareness and brings in thousands of dollars for The Center For Grieving Children. In 2008, he locked himself in the CYY studios for four days, and then every year since, he's lived there for five days.

This year, for Markathon 13, Curdo plans to extend it another 24 hours, making it six solid days, from Monday, Dec. 6, through Saturday, Dec. 11.

"You would think after all these years it might get tougher, but it's actually the opposite," he tells me as we catch up about Markathon. "It gets easier in terms of the long stay. I just know how to handle the week better, I figure out which night I need to get an extra hour of sleep or which night I should eat lighter. I don't drink coffee, so all of those other things are really important."

Markathon's Humble Beginnings, 13 Years Ago

Curdo has been in and around radio for quite some time. Today he's the host of Spinout every Sunday evening here on CYY—I have the privilege of being on-the-air from 3PM-7PM right before he takes over—but in the past, he's served in other on-air capacities, worked for record labels, and been on the artist management side of things.

Oh, and for the last four-and-a-half years, he's been the manager of AURA, so he's constantly soaked in all things music.

I've seen the power of radio and what radio can really do and the strength it really has.

"I've seen radio from all of these different directions," he says with obvious admiration for the industry. "I've seen the power of radio and what radio can really do and the strength it really has. To this day, there's an ability and a strength that radio has to do things for the community. A lot of stations will do fundraisers for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, and that's good and that's important, but I felt like we should really do something that stops the town in its tracks and makes people pay attention. I wanted to do more."

So in 2008, Curdo brought up an idea to Herb Ivy, his boss and the morning show host for WBLM. He wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to do, but he knew he wanted to do something big for charity.

"I told Herb I was thinking about this college radio thing where we just shut the door and I never leave and I eat pizza and play music all week," Curdo recalls. "Herb and I fleshed out the idea and figured it could be this one-man kind of thing, like David Blaine meets Jerry Lewis."

When Ivy asked him what charity he was thinking about, Curdo didn't have an immediate answer.

"There are so many great outfits in Portland, so many great charities around here," he says. "We're a very giving community. Herb mentioned The Center For Grieving Children. I had heard of them and so I spent a little time learning more about them and what they're all about. That was it. I knew it almost right away, I knew they were the charity."

Curdo's memory of landing on The Center For Grieving Children stems from his own personal experiences with his family.

"I don't have brothers and sisters—I have my parents and I'm lucky to still have them today," he says. "I haven't had many immediate losses over the years and I can't imagine what it's like for families to go through losing a child or for a child to lose a parent. Honestly, I felt like this was my way to show my appreciation for these families and to support them."

Mark Curdo in the CYY studios.
Mark Curdo in the CYY studios.

With that, Markathon was born: Anyone who makes a donation to The Center, Curdo would be their DJ and spin their requests.

"You pay. You make a request. I'll play anything you want to hear."

Al Green, Ambrosia, and Anthrax

The idea of playing requests for people who make donations was simple, but if Curdo was going to be a true DJ for the listeners, there couldn't be any limitations to what made it to the airwaves.

Every year, Markathon celebrates musical extremes—and Curdo loves it.

"For me, as a music fan and a DJ," he admits, "this is a dream come true."

While some stations might be concerned about letting the listeners take control of the playlist for an entire week, Curdo says it's been refreshing and encouraging to always have the support of CYY.

"It's kind of unheard of," he says. "I'm still in shock that we can even do this, but really, it is a win for everybody. It's a win for the listeners, for the community, for The Center. The station gets to be part of a really great thing and we can even build new relationships with local businesses and bring them to the table to support The Center, too."

Mark Curdo with a check for $17,000 from InterMed, given to The Center For Grieving Children in 2019.
Mark Curdo with a check from InterMed, given to The Center For Grieving Children in 2019.

As Markathon 13 gets ready to start, Curdo is going into the week having raised more than $600,000 total over the last 12 fundraisers.

"It's amazing because that $600,000 is really a $5 call here, a $10 call there, another $5 call, maybe a $20 call," he says. "Sometimes I'll be on at midnight and someone will call up with a $500 or $1,000 call, but really, we're raising this money by fives and 10s and 20s."

In addition to the on-air and online donations and requests, Curdo has expanded Markathon into an online auction. About eight years ago, he reached out to some friends at record labels to see if they had anything cool to give away, like box sets, vinyl, and autographed items. Now, he has all that good stuff plus concert tickets, sports tickets, unique experiences like throwing out the first pitch at a Sea Dogs games, and even private concerts.


Don't Forget About the Beer and the Celebrities

As big of a music town as Portland is—and as generous as this city is to its great charities—there's no ignoring the craft beer scene here. Curdo says that local beer companies have always been involved, helping raise money and awareness for The Center, but last year one brewery reached out with an idea that he wasn't expecting.

"Lone Pine Brewing Company has always supported Markathon on their own, but a few months before we got started in 2020, one of the two owners reached out and asked what I thought about doing a Markathon beer," he explains. "I was like, 'Uh, yeah! Sure!'"

Though there wasn't much lead time ahead of Markathon, Lone Pine had a blend that everyone at the brewery liked, and so after a few weeks, they had it canned, labeled, and ready for consumption.

Lone Pine Brewing Company's label for the Markathon 12 beer in 2020.
Lone Pine Brewing Company's label for the Markathon 12 beer in 2020.

Then in February 2021, they decided to get the ball rolling much sooner.

"They told me they had a great time with it and wanted to do it again," Curdo says. "They wanted to get it to the stores well before Markathon started, and they even wanted to get it into Hannafords. I really appreciated that, because after this thing wraps up, I don't hear much about it other than from people I bump into when I'm out and about. But Lone Pine, they've been at it all this year, and it's turned out really cool."

In addition to the love Curdo has received from the beer community, he's also managed to have some celebrities join him on the air.

Mark Curdo hanging with Celtics legend and NBA Hall of Famer (and Maine resident), Dave Cowens.
Mark Curdo hanging with Celtics legend and NBA Hall of Famer (and Maine resident), Dave Cowens.

"Athletes, musicians, comedians, they've all been on," he says. "I had Wolfgang Van Halen on last year, which was really cool and really special because it was just a few months after his dad passed."

Though he remains humble and seems to hate any attention this week brings to him personally, Curdo has no doubt become a bit of a celebrity himself. In 2012, he received the key to the city of Portland, and on top of that, the governor of Maine declared Dec. 3, 2012, as "Mark Curdo Day."

As he reflects on those honors, he doesn't have much to say.

In 2012, Mark Curdo received the key to the city of Portland.
In 2012, Mark Curdo received the key to the city of Portland.

Last But Not Least: The Weirdest Requests

When the airwaves open up without any limitations, there are bound to be some bizarre requests. Yes, Markathon will play anything from Britney Spears to Iron Maiden, but Curdo says sometimes the requests are way out there.

"I usually make a collection every year of 'What the Hell Is This' songs," he says, laughing, "like Jimmy Durante's "Inka Dinka Doo." I think one of the ones that still stands out is Hervé Villechaize from Fantasy Island. He had a singing career back in the late-'70s, early-'80s, and he was awful. The request was hard to listen to and weird in so many ways. Someone once requested the German version of "Barbie Girl." I was playing "Let's Go to the Mall" from How I Met Your Mother once. People will request the theme song from The Smurfs."

But he says it's not all weird.

"The craziness is great, but it's balanced by awesomeness, too," he exclaims. "You'll get someone who calls for a great Tom Waits song or an Otis Redding track. Sometimes we'll get jazz requests, which is good for me because it usually means I can go to the bathroom and grab a snack. And of course, we get important songs, too. Dedications."

Curdo pauses for a moment as he thinks about the significance of someone calling in and requesting a dedication.

I love the gift of music that comes out of this every year.

"A lot of people play songs for their mom or their dad or someone else they've lost. The beautiful thing is music brings it all together. I love the gift of music that comes out of this every year."

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To learn more about The Center For Grieving Children, click here.

Markathon Paraphernalia

Thirteen years of Markathon means a lot of posters, T-shirts, and at least one statewide proclamation. Check out the gallery below for a trip down Markathon memory lane.

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