Telethon showcases local talent, brings in dollars for AID
By Jenette Sturges firstname.lastname@example.org March 16, 2013 9:54PM
Hosts Dori Erwin Collins and Ron Meaney show off a selection of jam packaged by clients available for sale Saturday to benefit the Association for Individual Development during telethon at Waubonsee Community College. AID serves over 5000 clients with physical or developmental disabilities in Kane and Kendall counties as well as portions of Dekalb County and Hanover Township. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 18, 2013 11:36AM
An Elvis impersonator, a ventriloquist, singers, guitarists and bell choirs, all taking to a glitzy stage, backed by a phone bank of two-dozen volunteers manning landline telephones — sure, a telethon may seem a little retro.
But it’s also a lot of fun.
“Yes, it’s retro, but some people would really miss it if we didn’t do it every year,” said Kathy Hazelwood, vice president of marketing at the Association for Individual Development. “It’s exciting. It’s live TV.”
AID has been asking the Fox Valley for donations via telethons of crooning Elvi and strumming folk ensembles for more than 20 years, and the annual event is the organization’s most important fundraiser, covering the costs of treatments and services that the state and other agencies cannot pick up.
On Saturday, the 10-hour event took the stage at Waubonsee Community College.
And while the donations are important for serving AID’s roughly 5,000 clients with special needs, the telethon has become a worthwhile event in its own right, Hazelwood said.
“Our clients and their loved ones enjoy it,” she said. “People get a kick out of the little girls in tutus that volunteer to perform, and it’s a place to showcase our very talented staff and clients,” Hazelwood said.
Indeed, many individual volunteers and organizations took the stage Saturday to support AID, from the Mayer School of Irish Dancing — timely for the St. Patrick’s holiday weekend — to the bell choir of St. Mark’s Church.
But several of AID’s clients also joined in on the fun, including Robert Hammer, a client since 1988, who pulled the crowd in by playing guitar and singing James Brown’s “Superstition.”
Between performances, hosts chat it up with the clients and families of AID, telling stories of success — people of all ages facing developmental disabilities or mental illnesses who are more fully engaged in their communities because of AID.
The Association for Individual Development helps clients with all the tasks of daily life — from finding supervised or supportive housing to learning to ride the PACE bus. They teach job skills, whether through community volunteer opportunities, AID’s own sheltered work programs, or jobs out in the community.
“It’s a great organization, and I have a blast doing it,” said telethon host Tim Williams, who has volunteered with the telethon for the past nine years.
“The 10 hours just fly by,” he said
Despite the excitement of a live TV broadcast, a modern-age telethon does have its challenges, such as the advent of cell phones, and the shrinking sizes of phone books. Volunteers on the phone bank these days are advised to come prepared with phone lists of friends, family and acquaintances to ring up between the shrill old-fashioned sounds of incoming calls.
“Nobody has a landline anymore,” Hazelwood said.
But that hasn’t stopped the donations from pouring in. As of 2 p.m. — halfway through the 10-hour show — the grand total on the big board announced with a drumroll was $56,202, nearly halfway to AID’s $125,000 goal.
And the telethon has come into the digital era. The show was aired live on AID’s website, where donations are also accepted. To add to the grand total, go to www.the-association.org, and click Donate Now.