Three television cameras trained their lenses on a gospel group at the Anniston City Meeting Center on Sunday afternoon, the second day of the weekend telethon for East Central Alabama United Cerebral Palsy.
The annual event is the chief fundraiser for the group, which provides a range of services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The event helps the local arm of United Cerebral Palsy, or UCP, collect between $350,000 and $400,000 for its $1.5 million budget, said Linda Johns, executive director.
“It raises the local money we need,” Johns said. “It allows us to reach out to the families who need us.”
This September the center plans to move from its facility near McClellan Boulevard to a new, larger facility, at the former Fort McClellan. The change is critical, board member Sonde Coleman said, because it will help the group serve more people, and the money raised through the telethon will help the organization make that transition.
The telethon was broadcast on TV-24 and on Cable One’s Channel 2. Organizers relied on volunteers, including area high school football teams, to take calls and record pledges. While the telethon is the main event in the organization's fundraising effort, it’s not the only one.
This weekend the organization also collected money at storefronts, during roadblocks and through a silent auction held Sunday inside the meeting center. In addition, long-time UCP volunteer Marti Warren also sold at the event a collection of jewelry she refurbished throughout the year.
She said she donated all the money she made to the organization, something she’s done for almost two decades. Sunday she was recognized for it when organizers surprised her with the Margaret P. Coley Award, named after a former director.
Warren said she turned to volunteer work at UCP at a tough time in her life, and never quit. In her time as a volunteer, she said, she has raised enough money to support about 50 children in need of therapy at the center.
“I just love kids,” said Warren, a former high school counselor.
That’s something Jacksonville mother Rebekah McGee can appreciate. She and her husband Will McGee have two children, one of whom is developmentally delayed and receives help from the organization.
Today their 2-year-old son, Israel, is making measurable developmental gains, but that wasn’t so before he came to the center a little more than a year ago. At the center he receives physical, occupational and speech therapy. Now he’s interacting with more children, becoming more mobile and learning to talk and to walk.
“It helps lift my burdens to know there are other people who care about him and are trained to work with him,” she said, her son just a few feet away playing with people clad in the orange UCP T-shirts at the telethon. “I know without UCP we wouldn’t have reached the goals we set.”