(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- It may be more than a month away, but organizers of the Kenny Rogers Children's Center telethon are already gearing up for the 28th annual fundraiser.
"It's that time of year again, and there are plenty of ways everyone can get involved," said Michelle Fayette, executive director of the Center.
This years's telethon will be March 15-16 at the Sikeston Field House.
Fayette said preparations for the telethon began immediately after last year's ended.
"(After a telethon ends) we line up our technical people and make sure the Field House is available," Fayette said.
Now the Center's staff and volunteers are busy working on all of the last-
minute projects that have to take place, Fayette said.
"We're getting ready to get posters out. We just took the pictures for that so if anyone would like a poster, feel free to call," Fayette said.
Preparations are also being made on this year's Telethon Idol event, which has become very popular, Fayette said, noting last year's competition raised $15,000.
"With the Telethon Idol, since it's in its third year, we're trying to figure out where we want to go with it, how to make it better and what's trendy now," Fayette said.
A preliminary competition will be Feb. 9 at the Westfield Shoppingtown West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau. From there, 12 finalists will be chosen to perform in the Telethon Idol from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 15 at the Sikeston Field House.
"We're working with getting that (Feb. 9 competition) taped so people will possibly be able to get a DVD of the whole Telethon Idol process -- from the auditions through the final contest," Fayette said.
Brandy Dallas, physical therapist and clinical coordinator at the Center, said anyone 14 and older can come out for the auditions, stand on the stage and sing in the JC Penney wing of the mall. Last year about 40 people tried out, she said.
"Singers will be judged on their a cappella performances and the top 12 will be announced at the mall that Saturday afternoon. The 12 finalists will then be allowed to raise money between Feb. 9 and the actual telethon date," Dallas said.
The Telethon Idol will be decided based on 50 percent of funds raised by the finalist and 50 percent of the judges scores during their live performance March 15. The winner will be announced at 2 p.m. March 16.
"It was a great event last year. So many show up at the Field House to watch. It was a really good time and a great turnout," Dallas said.
While the competition is a singing contest and a way for people to get their music out there, its main purpose is to raise money for the Center, Dallas said.
Like the Telethon Idol, changes to the telethon are being made elsewhere.
While Margaret Russell of Blodgett will still conduct pageants during the telethon this year, Fayette said the pageants will be more visible this year.
"Last year I had about 30 chairs set up (for the pageant audience) and about 200 people came in. This year we're going to give her (Russell) a better format, a better stage and more air time. Hopefully we'll bring that crowd in again on Saturday afternoon," Fayette said.
The Center staff and volunteers are busy collecting items for the live silent auction, which will also be a bit different this year, Fayette said.
"We'll have casino packages, gift baskets and giveaways. We're getting away from the celebrity/autographed items and going more to other popular hobbies. Wineries are really big right now, and we hope to get gift certificates to wineries and nice gift baskets made up," Fayette said."
Anyone interested in being part of the telethon's entertainment should contact the Center because that's also something that's being organized now, Fayette said.
Of course, the biggest way the Center makes its money is through VIP panels, which are always needed, Fayette said. A VIP panel is comprised of five people who solicit donations through phone calls during the live event. Panels switch out every hour. "The best way is to raise that money beforehand rather than when you get to the telethon," Fayette advised.
Times are filling up so Fayette encouraged any individual or groups interested in being on a panel to contact the Center.
"Donations don't always have to be raised by getting on the phone and making phone calls. There a lot of different ways to get creative with fundraising," Fayette said.
For example, in years past, Cott Beverages has conducted a raffle for St. Louis Cardinals tickets and then donated the proceeds to the Center, Fayette said.
"Some companies do payroll deductions, which is an easy, painless way to give," Fayette said.
Other ways groups raise funds include employers letting employees wear jeans on Fridays for a $1, organizations conducting road blocks and church groups hosting potluck dinners, Fayette said.
For those who want to raise money but don't want to commit to the VIP panel, they can contact the Center for pledge cards, Fayette said.
Last year's telethon netted $320,000 and broke the record for most funds ever raised during the event, according to Fayette. This year's goal is set at $300,000, which is the same as last year's.
But regardless of how someone helps, the success of the telethon has always been due to community support.
"People like that it's a telethon of local people putting it together," Fayette said. "People tune in and see people they know. They see friends, and they see family."