Fordham University professor Costas Panagopoulos, a 1992 Dracut High graduate and Dracut Scholarship Fund recipient, said,  Programs like this can make the
Fordham University professor Costas Panagopoulos, a 1992 Dracut High graduate and Dracut Scholarship Fund recipient, said, Programs like this can make the difference as to whether students go on to earn a college degree. Panagopoulos, who attended Harvard, has appeared on networks like NBC, Fox and, in this case, CNN. COURTESY PHOTO

DRACUT -- The Super Bowl wasn't the only major annual TV event to endure a blackout before yielding epic results.

In its 30th anniversary year, the 2013 Dracut Scholarship Telethon set an all-time fundraising record of $133,500, DSF President Donna Yackel announced.

The record was set despite a power outage last Tuesday night that struck less than an hour into the opening night of the four-night broadcast, plunging thousands of Dracut residents into darkness, and depriving the telethon of precious hours of sponsorship displays and fundraising.

Embodying the persevering and positive attitude that would be mirrored by the Dracut community in general on the following three nights, a chorus of first-graders, who were on stage at the time the blackout occurred, bravely kept singing to their parents and other members of the live audience in the auditorium under the dim emergency lighting, noted DATV Executive Director Gary Meuse.

When it became evident at 8:30 p.m. -- "after a flicker of lights gave us only a flicker of hope," Meuse said -- that National Grid crews would not be able to restore power to the Lakeview Avenue school complex area by 9:30 p.m., the telethon participants went home for the night early.

Yackel said a remarkable extra effort was made to ensure all sponsorship-display commitments and event's $100,000 fundraising goal were met during the remaining three nights.

"Our gold and silver sponsors, and those who provide our auction items, really pushed us over the top," said Yackel.

Meuse reported all of the scheduled talent acts from Tuesday night were squeezed in later in the week with the exception of at least two more first-grade choruses, both of which DATV plans to videotape at their schools for later airplay.

"This makes two years in a row we've set a new fundraising record, and considering we did it after losing about an entire night speaks volumes, and shows the respect this community has for this cause, and this event," Meuse said. "We're continually blown away by the volunteerism and generosity. Despite losing a night, we gained a record. Go figure!"

Last year's total, which also set a record, was $130,000. This year's total may still grow, as officials believe not all outside donations have been tabulated.

At its inception in 1957, the Dracut Scholarship Foundation awarded its first two scholarships, totaling $350. In the 56 years since, the DSF has awarded more than $1.6 million in scholarships to more than 1,500 recipients.

(The DSF provides this link to the list of hundreds of past scholarship recipients since 1957: www.dracutscholarship.org/scholarshiphistory. html.)

"It's a truly amazing legacy of commitment by the entire Dracut community to the mission of the foundation," Yackel said.

One of the most famous names on the list of past DSF recipients is 1992 Dracut High grad Costas Panagopoulos, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University, who has frequently been featured as a political analyst on NBC, CNN, Fox and other TV outlets.

When contacted at Fordham, Panagopoulos expressed his appreciation that the Dracut Scholarship Telethon continues to set fundraising records in its 30th year.

"It was certainly a big help to me, enabling me to finance my career at Harvard as an undergraduate," said Panagopoulos, a son of Greek immigrants. "This was certainly true back then, and it still plays a vital role today with the escalating costs of college education. Programs like this can sometimes make the difference as to whether students go on to earn a college degree."

Money raised during the 2013 DSF Telethon will be awarded to about 40 to 50 graduating seniors whose names will be announced in May, Yackel said.