05/02/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT
The hectoring hosts of pay-to-pray TV have evidently been wasting a lot of breath. Without so much as hinting at salvation, suicide or the last days, Ron Chapman, a deejay at Dallas radio station KVIL, triggered a flood of donations from his audiophilic flock. On March 31, as a whimsical test of his medium's power, he made a simple on-air request: "Go to your checkbooks," quoth he. "Write a check payable to KVIL Fun and Games. Make it in the amount of $20 and mail it to this address." That's all he said. He never stated why he wanted the money or what he'd do with it. "I thought I might get three or four hundred checks," says Chapman, 51, who'd planned to return the money to each donor with a bag of sponsor goodies. But it quickly became obvious that many goodies would be needed. Four thousand checks came in the next day's mail; 5,000 arrived the day after. Recently KVIL announced that a total of 12,212 checks—worth $244,240—had been received. And according to the FCC, since no promises were made, there's no fraud. But KVIL won't keep the loot. Instead, it will be donated to charities and civic projects. "We've done some crazy stunts," says Chapman, "but this is the biggest."