DRACUT — Crowds roamed the halls of Dracut High during the last night of the annual Dracut Telethon, watching acts in the auditorium or sampling homemade soup.
However, it was clear that the real fun was being had in the TV studios where live broadcasts were showcasing students answering phone calls and watching that dollar tally rise.
Dracut Scholarship Foundation president Rebecca Duda said Saturday that the three-night event raised $120,019.
The live broadcast was clearly a unique and surreal experience for the seniors running the phones.
“It’s cool because you see it on TV and then you’re here. It’s sweet,” said senior Joel Manzi, 17, who was working the phones Friday night.
Valedictorian and National Honor Society president Mohamad Hamze, who was also working the phones, commented that is nice to finally be part of this after seeing it done since freshman year.
“I’ve been waiting four years for this and that’s a big part of it,” said Hamze.
Students from the elementary, middle and high school, performed various acts on stage throughout the three nights, from singing to dancing, as well as many of the schools’ choruses and bands.
A long tradition for the Dracut community, begun in 1957, the telethon typically raises around $100,000, more or less, each year. And the Scholarship Foundation typically gives out scholarships to about 30 to 40 students each year.
Scholarship Foundation board member John Witkos said the telethon is a time to give back. He received a DSF scholarship as a high school student.
“For years I had said, ‘I’ve gotta stop in and see what I can do for them some day,'” said Witkos, a foundation board member for more than 10 years. “It’s a small town and you see many of the same people helping year after year. It’s a great tradition.”
In addition to the telethon, many were raising money through the annual Soup Off. Parents, teachers and others involved in the community make their signature soup and attendees donate $5 to taste all the soups they like and then vote for their favorites.
This year they had creative hits such as tortellini corn chowder and loaded potato soup, as well as classics like chicken soup and clam chowder.
Duda said that this year in particular is special.
“We’re excited because this is the first year it was held in the new high school,” said Duda. “We have a brand-new television studio, new sound equipment … and a seasoned crew. We’re very happy and proud to be using it for the first real major event of the year.”
Principal of Dracut High School Richard Manley said the school community is always proud of the response to the telethon.
“We are happy to start giving out some scholarships,” said Manley. “We are coming into the event season in the spring and this is the first time when we had to pull all the technical pieces together (in the new school’s facilities). “It’s a huge logistical endeavor; three nights with various schools and all the kids coming in.”
Many various organizations donate to the telethon, like businesses such as Mama’s Italian Restaurant and organizations like Friends of Dracut Football, Dracut police and the Knights of Columbus.