All great things must come to an end.
Estevan and area residents witnessed that first-hand on October 19, when one of the great fundraising streaks in Saskatchewan, if not all of Canada, came to an end.
The United Way Estevan didn't reach its goal during its 33-hour telethon. For the first time in its 37 years, the telethon went off the air short of its goal. It was a sad, emotional moment, but everybody knew that one day, one year, the telethon would close, and the United Way would have some work to do to reach its goal.
It was remarkable, though, to witness the final hour of the telethon. There was an incredible sense of desperation once people realized that the goal might not be attained.
Phones rang non-stop with people phoning in pledges. Some were donating for a second time. The hosts read those pledges, and asked for more, when the closing act, The Daae Family, wasn't performing.
The goal was not to be met on that day. There wasn't going to be a phone call to the national president in Ottawa to announce that Estevan had reached its goal. And the president wasn't going to tell the United Way Estevan and its throng of supporters that Estevan was once again "No. 1 in Canada" – a statement that has been heard 36 times in the telethon's 37-year history.
It was disappointing to miss the goal. But it wasn't a failure.
This year's total is still a remarkable number, regardless of the context or any other factor. A telethon in a community of about 12,500 people raised $336,000 over the course of 33 hours.
It equates to more than $10,000 an hour.
It was still the fourth-best off-air total in the telethon's incredible history. Even if the United Way doesn't receive another dime, Estevan will still be one of the top United Ways in the country for per capita fundraising.
While the dollar figure is what is ultimately reported, the telethon is so much more than a fundraiser. It's a celebration of a community and its volunteers, and what can be accomplished when so many people come together.
It's a showcase for talented performers of all ages and of different nationalities. If you can sing, dance or play an instrument, you can be part of the telethon.
It's a testament to the generosity of our city, and it's one of the best examples of why Estevan is such an incredible community.
Donations will come in, and Estevan will reach its goal. If the remaining $14,000 comes in before 11:59 p.m. on October 25, then Estevan will likely be No. 1 in Canada again. If it takes more time to reach $350,000, and Estevan doesn't get to be No. 1 this year, then that's still all right.
When the goal is met, the member agencies and the community partners are the biggest beneficiaries. Everybody knows somebody who has benefitted from the efforts of one of the agencies or the partners. Most people know a lot of people who have benefitted.
But there's so much to celebrate with the United Way and its telethon, regardless of whether the goal is met.