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UCP Telethon Raises $32,250 In 50th Year
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
05:55PM / Sunday, January 27, 2013
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The telethon features an array of children's acts.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — United Cerebral Palsy of the Berkshires raised $32,250 on Sunday during the annual telethon.

According to Executive Director Christine Singer, the organization hopes to raise $35,000 by June. While it is currently short of that goal, she is confident that more donations will come in during the next few months.

"We'd be happy to just beat $35,000 because we know people are struggling," she said during the telethon at the Crowne Plaza. "Our business sponsors were consistent so I think it was the private donations [which fell short]... We do see it as a major success."

Still, more than 3,000 people donated during the telethon, simulcast on local public access stations and WUPE. The organization had fallen short of its goal at the 2010 telethon, too, but ended up surpassing it by June, said Singer. Every $400 raised above the goal will allow a child to attend UCP's summer camp for free, she said.

The four-hour telethon is one of two major fundraisers for the organization. This year's telethon was special because it the 50th one. The group has grown from a group of parents volunteering to run programming for children with cerebral palsy to helping people, both young and old, with any disability.

UCP Advisory Committee member Ed Skoletsky has never missed a telethon and on Sunday recalled the days when the organization hired an Albany, N.Y., television station to film it. The first telethons were held at a General Electric union hall on Tyler Street.

"We used to look around for people to be on TV with us and now they're waiting for invitations," Skoletsky said. "It's  gotten bigger and better."

Skoketsky said clients would travel to New York to be filmed during the telethon and at the union hall a fishbowl would collect nickels and dimes from donors.

Edward Skoletsky hasn't missed any of the 50 telethons.

The entertainment has changed and more children and persons with disabilities are performing, said Singer.

"We want to create a stronger awareness that anyone can have disabilities," she said adding that the acts show off the individuals' abilities.

Each year seems to see new faces, like this year Spartan Fitness joined as one of the many businesses to sponsor the event.

Owner Chas Gonnello said his business only opened in November and is already partnering with the organization.

The group had a table at the telethon and donated a membership for the silent auction. But that is only the beginning of its help, said Singer, who is envisioning a collaboration with UCP's own health and fitness programs.

Meanwhile, the organization has grown with the telethon. Singer said when she took the reins as executive director in 1996, the organization had an operating budget of $400,000. The programming has expanded so much that it is now a $2.5 million budget.

"We're expecting to be around for many years to come," Singer said.

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