Dracut Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors members George Malonis, left, and Rudy Rudolph stand together last week during the Dollars for Scholars
Dracut Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors members George Malonis, left, and Rudy Rudolph stand together last week during the Dollars for Scholars Dracut Scholarship Foundation's 36th annual telethon. Below, Dancers from the Lisa Pilato Dance Center perform during the telethon. COURTESY PHOTO

DRACUT -- Karen Vergakes was buried in her laptop last Friday evening, closely monitoring a live spreadsheet of money coming in through the Dollars for Scholars Dracut Scholarship Foundation's telethon. The excitement in the studio was palpable as the foundation's president watched the amount climb. Soon, it surpassed $135,000, the goal set this year by the Dracut Scholarship Foundation's board of directors.

"From there, we just kept on jumping from 140 to 150," Vergakes said. "And then we ended at $166,606."

The figure shattered last year's record-breaker of $140,711.

One of the most well-known events in town, the telethon is the primary fundraising event benefiting graduating seniors of Dracut High School.

Members of the Lisa Pilato Dance Center perform last week during the Dollars for Scholars Dracut Scholarship Foundation’s 36th annual telethon. The
Members of the Lisa Pilato Dance Center perform last week during the Dollars for Scholars Dracut Scholarship Foundation's 36th annual telethon. The event raised $166,606 in funds that will benefit graduating seniors of Dracut High School. COURTESY PHOTO
The 36th annual event was held at the school from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., each evening from Wednesday, March 20, through Friday, March 22. There were musical and dance performances as well as auction items featured.

"I think I'm still stunned. I'm just amazed," Vergakes said Monday when reached by phone. "We had 18 new sponsors that had donated from $2,500 to $100, and we had well over 20 new businesses donate items to our auction. It just always amazes me how much Dracut supports us."

Vergakes said 90 percent of the telethon's proceeds are awarded to Dracut High graduating seniors. Those interested in applying for a scholarship are encouraged to visit their guidance counselor's office and pick up a paper application.


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The paper application and a separate online application must be submitted by April 5 to be considered.

"The telethon is fun but a lot of work. The real fun is being able to award the scholarships," said Gary Meuse, a Dracut Scholarship Foundation board member who chairs the selection committee that distributes the scholarships.

Meuse, who is also the executive director of Dracut Access Television, has been the telethon's producer/director since the beginning and said it's always heartwarming to see this kind of result.

According to Glenn Mello, a longtime board member and past foundation president, this year's telethon was dedicated to Harvey Gagnon and Donna Brody, two community members who were actively involved with the Dracut Scholarship Foundation and have died.

"I'm grateful that the community comes out, especially our business sponsors that have really stepped up beyond past years," Mello said. "They did a great job in donating."

The Dracut Scholarship Foundation last year gave out 59 scholarships to graduating seniors. Vergakes said she hopes to increase that amount, adding that it depends on how many students apply. She thanked those who supported this year's telethon, members of the foundation's board, volunteers and local businesses.

"Dracut is a small town," she said. "We don't have big businesses in Dracut that can donate thousands and thousands of dollars. We have almost $40,000 in sponsorships for a small town. That's amazing, and it's also the envy of all the other towns around us that we can get this money -- that we can get this support. It's amazing."

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.