The United Way Estevan closed its 37th annual fundraising telethon with its fourth-best off air total ever, but it still wasn't enough for the organization to reach this year's lofty goal.
The 33-hour telethon finished with a total $336,098, which was about $14,000 short of its goal of $350,000. It's the first time ever that the United Way hasn't reached its goal during the broadcast.
Since the telethon went off air at 5 p.m. on October 19, donations have been trickling in, lifting the total to nearly $337,000.
But United Way hasn't given up on reaching the $350,000 figure. They want to reach that number by October 25; if they do, they would likely be the first in Canada to hit their objective.
“We're going to get to that $350,000 by Friday (October 25),” president Dawn Schell said adamantly moments after the telethon concluded on Saturday evening. “That's what the board has said we're going to do.”
Estevan has been the first in Canada to eclipse its goal 35 times in the 36-year history of the telethon.
"(We'll do) whatever it takes to reach our goal," said Schell.
The telethon opened at 8 a.m. on October 18, and the fundraiser had a strong start, as they had raised more than $50,000 by 1 p.m. that afternoon. Enbridge Pipelines brought in a donation for more than $28,000, thanks in large part to success of their Cooks that Cook fundraiser.
The telethon's tally was above the $86,000 mark by midnight.
By the time 1 p.m. arrived on October 19, the total was at $107,000. Donations of more than $106,000 from SaskPower and $90,000 from Sherritt Coal brought the total to above the $311,000 mark with a couple hours to go.
The SaskPower and Sherritt Coal donations came through payroll deductions and fundraisers among the employees. The respective corporations then matched part of, or all of, the employees' efforts.
The United Way had to raise more than $20,000 an hour to make their goal after the big donations came in. And they did fetch more than $20,000 during a frantic final hour, as local residents and businesses donated to push the telethon closer to its goal.
Money raised during and after the telethon will be directed towards the United Way Estevan's 18 member agencies and three community projects.
“All of that money is still going to get … put to good use,” Schell said.
School children provided the bulk of the entertainment during the telethon's first seven hours. Once the schools were finished, singers, dancers and instrumentalists of all ages from the Estevan area provided entertainment until the telethon's conclusion.
“We had such a wide range of entertainment this year,” said Schell. “It was great to see. We had different cultures come and participate and be part of our event, which is something that we really haven't had. And it was great.”
The Sikh Society of Estevan packed the venue as they not only performed three dances, but taught some of their dancing techniques to the United Way's board members and volunteers. The Third Town Band, which is a group of Filipinos who sing cover tunes and reggae music, were also part of the telethon.
A lot of young children participated this year, Schell said, and those young children will one day be leaders of the community. She hopes they will continue to be supporters of the telethon.
Schell concedes that the community has changed, and in some respects, it has become more difficult for the United Way to reach its goal. Some of the local businesses who have been ardent supporters of the telethon aren't locally owned anymore, so they have to go through their head office to secure a donation for the fundraiser.
"They've been purchased by larger companies, and this is an eye-opener for us," said Schell. "We need to be in the community more, and we need to spread more awareness of the United Way and the work that we do in the community, so that those larger corporations who purchase our local businesses know how important it is to our community."
But being part of the United Way board, and serving as the president, are among the most rewarding things that she says she has ever done. There was a lot of energy in the building this year, there were so many volunteer hours that went into the telethon, and everybody is so proud of their accomplishments.
This year's theme was "I Am the Way." The entire event was held at the Estevan Royal Canadian Legion, and it was broadcast live on Access Communications.