Estevan’s United Way is still “No. 1 in Canada.”
The organization became the first United Way in Canada to reach its goal for the 35th time during the organization's 36th annual Telethon October 12 and 13. The off-air total for the 33-hour telecast was $347,953, which was nearly $13,000 better than their goal of $335,000.
A $7,500 donation from the Eve of Destruction at the Estevan Motor Speedway in September pushed the United Way over its goal.
Funds raised during the telethon will stay in the community, as they will be directed towards 17 member agencies and three community projects.
“What an incredible experience,” said United Way Estevan president Roberta DeRosier. “I’ve said before that you can’t describe it until you are involved with it.”
The event emanated from the Royal Canadian Legion, and it was broadcasted live on Access Communications.
Support was strong throughout the Telethon. By the time 6 p.m. rolled around on October 12, the Telethon had raised more than $86,000, thanks to donations from businesses, individuals and schools. Schools provided entertainment throughout the morning and early afternoon, and each school that performed donated to the Telethon.
The overnight hours of the Telethon featured a new twist this year, thanks to a takeover by students from the Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS). The youth served as hosts, provided entertainment and volunteered in other capacities, while provided enthusiasm to the event.
With only a few hours remaining in the broadcast, the total stood at a little more than $113,000. Then two big donations came in. The first was for more than $92,000 from Sherritt Coal and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Members of the UMWA raised half the amount; the mine then matched the total.
About an hour later, SaskPower and its local employees revealed their donation, which was worth more than $102,000. The corporation also matched the amount raised by the employees.
After those two donations, the telethon was about $6,600 short of its $335,000 goal. Donations continued to come in, leaving the United Way about $2,000 short.
The donation from the Eve of Destruction that pushed the United Way past its goal came with about 75 minutes remaining in the Telethon. Moments later, DeRosier received confirmation from national president/CEO Jacline Abray-Nyman that the United Way Estevan was once again No. 1 in Canada.
“What wonderful news, and … we are very proud from the national office to extend our congratulations to you and Estevan for all your hard work and tremendous commitment,” said Abray-Nyman.
Abray-Nyman, who is in her first year as national president/CEO, said she is looking forward to the day when she can come to Estevan and witness the Telethon first hand.
DeRosier admitted there was a sense of relief when they topped their goal.
“I really didn’t think that it would affect me the way that it did,” said DeRosier. “One of my kids asked me this morning, before I left, if we didn’t reach our goal, how I would react to that. I thought 'I’m so grateful for whatever we have that it’s all right if we don’t reach our goal,' but in all honesty, once we did, and I made that phone call, there is just no other experience like that.”
The telethon wrapped up with a 1950s dance party. Students from ECS, and other people, donned ‘50s garb and danced to hits from the decade.
“It wasn’t traditional, and that’s one of the beauty things about the United Way, is we don’t have to stick with the same thing,” said DeRosier. “It’s great to find something new and something energetic, and it was a nice way to close out.”
The school students and the 1950s dance party comprised just some of the entertainment this year. Singers, dancers and instrumentalists volunteered their abilities to make sure that there was entertainment throughout the 33 hours.
People found other ways to offer their talents to the United Way. Many volunteered at some point in the telethon. Thirty-five hand-crafted bid items were sold during a silent auction. A quilt by the Heart and Hands Quilting Guild was raffled off.
DeRosier lauded the contributions of ECS students, who had a strong presence beyond just the overnight takeover.
“We were really excited to have them, especially during the night, and throughout the whole weekend, of course, for a couple of reasons,” said DeRosier. “One is that they bring us that extra energy at night. Definitely our hosts, Trevor Gowen and Gene Stephany, who did the 33 hours, appreciated the extra energy that they brought.
“The other reason is it’s nice to get that young involvement, because we’ve shown over and over again, that when people get involved young, they stay with us for years.”
This year’s theme was “Be the Difference,” and DeRosier said the people of Estevan and area have done that through their contributions to the Telethon.