DRACUT -- The annual Dracut Scholarship Foundation Telethon has been a highlight of the calendar since its inception in 1983.
Celebrating its 30th year, organizers are promising some new twists and some old favorites at this year's fundraiser, which takes place for four nights at Dracut High School and is broadcast on Dracut Access Television channels 8 and 22. The telethon has raised more than $2 million for more than 1,600 deserving students. Last year's total of $130,077 surpassed a previous record by $10,000.
DSF President Donna Yackel says it takes most of the year to plan the telethon.
"There are several subcommittees within the board that are continuously discussing plans and ideas for the telethon. It takes full commitment from all sitting members of the board to run this successful event," Yackel said.
In addition to the telethon, which features talent, games, goods and services for sale and donated items up for bid, the DSF also hosts a successful craft fair in October, which helps prime the fundraising pump. A $10,000 raffle is held during the telethon.
Yackel is excited about the second annual Soup Off in which home cooks show off their winning soup and chowder recipes. Details will be posted on the DSF website, www.dracutscholarship.org and on its Facebook page. The programming committee is still finalizing some new things, "You'll have to watch the telethon to see what we've come up with," Yackel says.
Q: What are some of the old favorites that are coming back this year?
A: "Since this is the 30th anniversary of the telethon, we will be showcasing lots of clips from past shows. We are lining up some returning musical talent as well. We again will also let the elementary and intermediate students stop by to help us with donations and tote updates. We will also continue our items sales in the lobby and encourage people to come down and watch the telethon live from our audience."
Q: What are some of the highlights of this year's telethon?
A: "We will see the return of 'Dracut Cash Cab' and 'Are You Smarter Than a DHS Senior?' game shows. One or two challenges may pop up. It's live TV. You never know what will happen. I haven't seen the donors list yet, but I'm sure the auction board will contain some old favorites as well."
Q: What's your favorite part of the telethon?
A: "My favorite part has always been the talent. I enjoy being entertained by the students and by the residents of the town."
Q: Do former students ever come back to help out with the telethon or to join as board members?
A: "We have many former students come back year after year. Especially on the technical side. Gary (Meuse) is appreciative of all the support he gets from his crew. We also have several former recipients of scholarships giving back by serving on the board of directors."
Q: Do other school districts every come to Dracut to see what goes on at the telethon?
A: "Over the years, several visitors have come down to see what we do. Former Dracut High School Principal Bruce Hutchins, the creator of this event, has brought guests from as far away as Cape Cod to see the telethon. They've all been amazed. It is unique to Dracut and has yet to be duplicated. We've been successful only because of the generosity of the Dracut residents and the surrounding towns."