By Greg Price
Talk about a 20th birthday party.
As the Taber and District Health Foundation was blowing the candles out of its 20th annual Share in the Experience of Giving Telethon birthday cake on Oct. 26, organizers were shocked to see the final tally as the cameras stopped rolling at 8 p.m. at the Heritage Inn on Shaw Cable 9.
“It was a record for sure,” said a beaming Dave McKee, fundraising co-ordinator for the Taber and District Health Foundation, of the nearly $500,000 that was raised from a furious six hours of pledge taking during the telethon.
“I think around the $380,000 mark was the previous record, somewhere in there,” he said.
Looking at fulfilling the wish list of medical institutions in Taber and the Vauxhall area, that wish list will now be fulfilled at a faster rate thanks to the generousity of the southern Alberta community and beyond.
“We didn’t think we would have that type of money to work with. All the different departments in the hospital, if they need equipment, they come to us and we in turn go to Alberta Health Services Lethbridge requesting approval,” said McKee. “You come up with a priority list of what the money can buy and once that goes off the list, the next one down the list becomes the next priority.”
The Share in the Experience of Giving Telethon has literally helped save lives in the medical equipment it has helped purchase through its fundraising.
“There has been a great deal of the money utilized for the colonoscopy equipment back in 2006 and Dr. Torrie is still going crazy there. You should see the place on a Tuesday or a Friday for colonoscopy use,” said McKee. “That was a real priority back then and still is today. That equipment has saved so many lives and saving people from having to go to the Jack Ady Cancer Centre, because if they had, they would have been put on a waiting list and it may have got more serious by the time you got to the diagnosis. That’s just one example of how this telethon has helped.”
A very touching moment during the telethon was a very generous $250,000 donation by Adele Collett in memory of her husband Brian, who passed away recently.
“She wanted to fulfill Brian’s wishes. It was mind blowing, it was very generous.
Apart from the huge donation from the Collett family were the standbys of generousity of the groups of people willing to open their wallets to a good cause.
“There are the people who give $20, $50, $100, they are our bread and butter that are with us all the time who do not necessarily get the recognition they deserve. The big gifts happen maybe once every 15 years,” said McKee. “But when those big gifts do happen, it allows the board to do things they normally did not anticipate they would be able to do. The generousity comes from all over, we had donations come in from Calgary and from Medicine Hat.”
Beyond the generousity of the people who phoned in their pledges were the volunteers who helped make the telethon a success in filling it with six hours of entertainment and witty banter back and forth to keep the pledge board humming.
The telethon featured a surprise for regular MCs ‘Wild’ Bill Lawson and Pete Season as the dynamic duo was joined by surprise guest Brent Seely for two hours.
“He said it took him a couple of minutes to get his TV legs back, but once he got going it was like he never left. Adele said he was one of Brian’s best friends so his tribute came from the heart and there were people behind the cameras that were close to tears,” said McKee with a chuckle. “He’s got that Tom Brokaw voice every reporter would love to have. And there were the entertainers that pulled out at the last minute because of health concerns so we had some entertainers were pulling double, triple shifts. Our hats go off to them.”
Donations have continued to pour in for the health foundation in the aftermath of the televised telethon as more donors give their pledges.
“Last year we had $35,000 from people who just wanted to remain anonymous,” said McKee.