Fuel Your Purpose: Chion wolf

Sharing the Stories of Others While Crafting Her Own

— Anne Mercer

If you live in Connecticut and listen to CT Public Radio, Chion Wolf needs no introduction.

Her voice has been gracing airwaves for more than a decade, first on the Colin McEnroe Show and now her show, Audacious with Chion Wolf.

It’s one thing to listen to Chion on the radio. It’s another to sit and have a conversation with her—over coffee, of course. 

We met up with Chion to chat about all things Connecticut, public radio, coffee, cycling, and so much more. Being a fan of her show, I went into the interview expecting a conversation filled with stories of her time sharing the stories of interesting people.

What I didn’t expect, however—and what I will forever remember from our conversation—wasn’t the encyclopedia of stories from her years in public radio, but rather the deliberate moments of silence as she calculated the most meaningful way to share her thoughts. 

The cadence in which Chion speaks makes it so you can’t help but be entranced by each story, moment, or phrase. It’s a brilliant balance of word choice, rhythm, and emotion bookended by reflective silence.

Give Audacious a listen and you'll know exactly what I mean.

All things considered, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that storytelling was an influential part of her childhood. 

My mother was a fantastic storyteller.

Born in Hartford and raised in Farmington, CT, Chion grew up listening to public radio. However, she didn’t start working in the industry until a serendipitous volunteer opportunity at CT Public Radio where she met John Dankosky, the network’s News Director and host of “Where We Live” at the time.

Being a curious individual, she peppered him with questions. Noting her inquisitive nature and genuine interest, he offered her an internship opportunity in 2007.  

Throughout this internship experience, she had one goal:

“To find a way so they couldn’t get rid of me.”

She noticed that users could upload a picture through the backend of the CT Public Radio website. So, with her Canon Elf, she took a picture of Lieutenant Governor Sullivan who was a guest on the show that morning and the lightbulb went off.  

“I thought to myself, I can be the photographer for this public radio station!”  

Little did she know her career path would take another trajectory.

Soon after this, Colin McEnroe started his show on CT Public Radio. He approached Chion and asked if she’d like to be the “voice of his show.”

For the next 10 years, Chion would go on to be the first and last voice people heard on the Colin McEnroe show—along with breaks and two-minute sketches throughout.

This opportunity launched her into the public eye, receiving compliments from public radio legend, Ira Glass, who, when speaking of Chion’s creative intros, said “Taking risks like this is the future of public radio.”

Chion went on to be a finalist to be the voice of NPR in Washington, DC, and hosted live shows like “The Mouth-Off,” which ran for eight years at the Mark Twain House, and “Asking for a Friend with Chion Wolf,” in conjunction with Sea Tea Comedy Theater in downtown Hartford—both of which sadly concluded due to the 2020 global health crisis.

All of these experiences lead to where Chion is now, the host of her very own show:
Audacious With Chion Wolf.

The Balance Between Creativity and Responsibility in Storytelling

Chion’s show explores uncommon topics experienced by everyday people, like…

  • What it’s like to be able to smell cancer
  • Unintended consequences of sending out your saliva for an online DNA test
  • Getting into the Guinness Book Of World Records for having the largest (known) female mouth

While some of the show’s topics are lighthearted or whimsical, others dive deep into sensitive topics such as: 

  • Surviving near-death experiences and what these lessons teach us about living
  • Wholeheartedly regretting becoming a parent
  • Finding purpose in life after accidentally killing someone

It’s important to me that we talk about the things people are scared to talk about.

When Audacious began, Chion sought out to share the stories of everyday people that the general public hadn’t heard before. She explained that public radio tends to speak with topic experts, professors, lawmakers, and others in various positions, but she wanted to hear and share the stories of people who are experts in their own experience.

Given the gravity of the topics, Chion’s role as host is not only to share these stories with a creative approach but to ensure they are told responsibly and with care.

Before each interview, she meets with each guest to ensure they consent to the topics being discussed—especially when those topics can bring up difficult emotions and memories. She explains, “They’ve already experienced pain, and I don’t want to add to it by going anywhere with our conversation that they don’t totally consent to going.”

Chion doesn’t take this obligation lightly.

“Stories are all we’re going to end up being anyway. There’s something beautiful about continuing the tradition of being a storyteller, but also getting better at it and making the stories mean something to somebody else."

And, of course, Chion has big plans for the future of her show. Following the excitement of her episode that gave listeners an inside look into the life of a professional auctioneerand Chion the opportunity to join in on the fun—keep an eye out for more experiential episodes soon!

Image via Pedal to the Medal, Facebook

Pedal to the Medal

As with most Victus Coffee fans, Chion loves to stay active. Her favorite way to do so? Cycling.

When she first started riding in 2015, she was hesitant to ride her bike on the busy streets of Hartford. That is until she found the Hartford Slow Roll group. 

Every other Sunday afternoon, 20-30 adults would congregate and slowly ride through the streets of Hartford. After joining a few rides, she was hooked and decided to train for a century. 

While riding back from the West Hartford Reservoir one day, a car crashed into Chion and sent her flying off the bike.

“I remember seeing the curb perfectly horizontal and thinking ‘I can hear the helmet, good. I’m alive to hear the helmet, good.”

Thanks to that helmet, she was whisked away to the hospital where she had a plate and eight screws put into her collarbone - a permanent souvenir of the experience.

Being the determined individual that she is, the first thing she did once cleared and healed was ride through the intersection to conquer any dwelling fears. But, even with a “can do” attitude, she was still hesitant to ride around vehicles. 

When the Hartford Marathon rolled around, Chion thought about how liberating it would feel to ride the route while closed to vehicles. So, she did!

Together with a few friends and donning a tiger onesie (because, why not?), she cheerily cycled through the marathon route free of vehicles and other obstacles. From this liberating experience, the Pedal to the Medal event was born.

Chion approached the Hartford Marathon Foundation with the idea of making the ride an annual event with a portion of the proceeds supporting the local cycling co-op, BiCiCo

Hartford Marathon’s response? Raise $25,000 to put it on and we’ll do it.

“And I did.”

With a cap of 240 riders, Chion sold out the event in less than two months. 

“It was everything I’d ever hoped it could be. It was one of the best days of my life.”

Sadly, the police did not feel the event provided enough safety given the marathon’s route. So, the next year Pedal to the Medal was held on the CT Fastrak bus route. However, it wasn’t quite the same experience as the prior rides.

And, as with many cherished events, shows, and performances, Pedal to the Medal fell victim to the global health crisis in 2020. 

But don’t for a second believe that Chion has shut the door on that chapter for good. Pedal to the Medal will return soon in a new fun and safe format for all to enjoy!

Reflecting on Health During a Global Crisis

As with most conversations these days, we chatted a bit about the effects of the pandemic on Chion’s career, life, and fitness aspirations.

“My health is the most important thing. I have to make sure I’m strong and take care of myself. Staying active is a priority for me now in a way that it's never been. In a way, it’s made me more cautious. I don’t want to get hit by someone texting and driving and end up in a hospital—so I’m not on my bike as often anymore. But, I have a Peloton!”

In a time as complex as 2020 and 2021, the concept of health extends far beyond our physical being. If the past two years have proved anything, it’s that one’s mental health is of equal importance to our physical health.

During our conversation, Chion mentioned that she had recently endured a shocking and excruciating divorce. Finding ways to stay active and physically healthy ultimately helped with her mental and overall health during this time.

She’s taken up running with her adorable dog, Gray, and finds that this forces her to find a balance between running the stress away and learning to pace herself. A lesson we can all use in times of hardship.

Hartford's Biggest Fan

It’s no secret that Chion loves Hartford. She was born here and continues to be among the city’s biggest supporters to this day.

“What I love about Hartford is that it was great before any of us got here, it’ll be great after all of us are gone. And while we’re all here, we can all be big fish in this pond. All of us.”

For those unfamiliar with Connecticut, Hartford is our capital city. Sandwiched just over two hours from New York City and Boston respectively, our little city is stuck between the giants and is often overlooked as a result.

But take a closer look and you’ll discover all the beauty Hartford holds within.

In a big city like our neighbors, you can get lost and experience feelings of deflation and uselessness. It’s hard to find your place and a sense of belonging in a metropolis. Not in Hartford. 

“You’re forced to play a role and play well with each other. That’s a standard for getting along in this city. It’s a small enough city that if you have a good idea and a plan that you can work out, this city will help you.”

It’s this sense of place that keeps Chion excited about the city and involved in many local organizations. On top of her previous live shows, she sits on the board for Night Fall Hartford and recently participated in “A Little Bit of Death” with performing artist, Zulynette.

“Hartford has this magic, fertile soil nature to it that keeps me coming back for more and gives me a lot of excitement for what will come next. There’s something in the air.” 

As for the city’s future, Chion is most excited about interconnected bike lanes! These long-overdue lanes, she explains, will provide safe transportation options to those without a car and promote a healthy lifestyle. For a city with a rich history in the bike industry, these bike lanes will be a welcome addition.

Coffee Tells Our Story

We all have our preferred way of drinking coffee. In a way, our coffee tastes tell our story.

“The one thing I really love about coffee culture is the way we personalize it. I used to tell people I drink coffee light and sweet like me.” 

After a few years sans coffee, Chion slowly ventured back into drinking coffee—mainly out of desperation after a particularly challenging day at work. But this time, she drank it black.

“Even though it was crappy coffee, I recognized how drinking it black could be an exciting new interest.” 

Once bitten by the specialty coffee bug, she came to J.René Coffee Roasters (our sister shop!) for a coffee cupping class. This experience opened her eyes to coffee’s vast sensory possibilities, allowed her to challenge her previous notions about coffee, and ask “What coffees do I like?” 

“Taking that time to spend with the coffee and think about it really opened up my eyes to the whole broad world of coffee.”

So, how do you like your coffee? How does it tell your story?

Rapid Fire Questions 

— Most memorable interviews or show experiences?

“Two experiences come to mind. First, was when I interviewed a man who was a convicted pedophile. He was writing a book to educate parents on what to look for and had made it his mission in life to try and help.

It was difficult to put aside the feelings that one would have sitting down with someone who has done such things. Although I was appreciative that he put words to his experience and was sincerely trying to help, I felt a tension in me I have not felt before or since.

Second would be when we did a show on auctioneers. It was around the time that Blue Origin auctioned off a seat on the rocket and I wanted to know what that experience was like. It was an experiential show in that we went to Golden Gavel Auctions and witnessed it in real-time. 

On top of interviewing, I got to try auctioning off an item. I’m good in front of an audience and like being under pressure in that way, but had no idea how I’d do! It turned out to be so much fun. 

The episode was recorded in the middle of my painful and sudden divorce, and I started using that pain as part of the humor in the episode.”

👉  Listen: SOLD! Audacious Auctioneers

— If you could have coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

“Michelle Obama. 

I know that she’s somebody who would be real with me, and who I’d probably have ten thousand questions for.  

Everything from ‘What’s it like waking up in the White House, built by people who were enslaved’ to ‘What was it like to amend her idea of life for her husband’s?’ If I asked her a difficult question, she’d be honest with me.

Plus, she’s so freaking cool!”

You can listen to Audacious by Chion Wolf on Saturdays at 10 am and Wednesdays at 11 pm on CT Public Radio.

Know someone who we should interview?
Send us a message at anne@victuscoffee.com.