The Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon has come a long way since its inaugural effort, in 1976.
“I was there right from the get-go, as a musician, performing on the very first telethon,” said Edwin Grieve, who has contributed in one way or another in every one of the first 40 annual fundraisers.
“I remember that first one, back in the days when it was at the old Cablenet building, where the walls were just pink Fiberglas insulation, covered over with six millimetre poly, and one microphone hung in the middle of the room. It was so ancient, that I think, if I remember correctly, even the TV cameras were steam-powered in those days. But seriously, it was pretty basic, (40) years ago.”
These days, Grieve spends most of the time out of the spotlight, as the stage manager for the big day, although he still slings his guitar and joins Kenny Shaw – and nearly every other volunteer still there at day’s end – for the Telethon theme song, Do it for the Kids!, traditionally sung as the final tally hits the tote board. Grieve wrote the song.
He is also the talent co-ordinator for the event.
“I work with (CVCDA president) Pam Crowe on that. We always get people calling in and emailing that want to play, and we try to fit them in, but we are partial to the bigger groups, because they fill the theatre. I mean, if you have the Brownies and Guides there, you have all the aunties and uncles and dads. Same with all the choirs and dance clubs.”
There is never a shortage of available talent to perform at the CVCDA Telethon.
“Oh man, we could have two Telethons,” said Grieve. “We could have a 12-hour Telethon really easily. But that just isn’t going to happen. We try to limit it until eight o’clock and just keep everything on the budget.
“So we tend to cater as much as possible to the bigger groups, because the more people there are in the theatre, the bigger chance there is of [impromptu] donations.”
And the bottom line is the bottom line, after all.
The CVCDA Telethon is a Valley staple, and it takes over the Sid Williams Theatre for the day on Sunday, Nov. 6, from noon to 8 p.m. It can be seen live on Shaw TV.
From the first one, at what is now Shaw TV (on McPhee Ave.), to its years at the Old Church Theatre, on Harmston Avenue, to its current incarnation, at the Sid Williams Theatre, the Telethon has always been the Child Development Association’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“After this many years, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine, but it’s still pretty labour intensive, to pull everything together and get everyone we need for volunteers, the prizes, media… it all starts early in the year,” said Joanne Schroeder, executive director of the CVCDA.
The silent auction has been active online for a couple of weeks (32auctions.com/cvcda), and has some amazing packages for successful bidders, from art pieces and private art lessons, to Vancouver Canucks tickets, and weekend getaways in Tofino.
“We are still getting new items, so… we are adding them as we get them, and they will all be there at the theatre as well,” said Schroeder.
Tickets for the WestJet raffle for a return trip for two anywhere the airline flies (regularly scheduled flights; charters excluded; all fees and taxes paid) are going fast, but there are still a few remaining. There are only 750 tickets printed ($10 apiece). They can be purchased at the CVCDA office on Fourth Street and Cliffe Avenue until Friday, and if there are any left by the day of the Telethon, there will be a table at the Sid.
Another ever-popular raffle is the huge gift basket, with enough items in it to complete a long Christmas shopping list. Tickets for that are three for $5 and available at the CVCDA office, or at the Sid on the day of the event.
Schroeder acknowledged the challenges faced by all charities pleading for the public’s help with fundraising efforts.
“It is so tough, and I am so appreciative of all the local businesses and individual donors who continue to support us,” she said. “We’ve relied on those folks for a lot of years, and those relationships really serve us well, because as you know, there are all kinds of other calls for people to donate, and every one of them is a worthy cause.”
Schroeder said the list was too long to go through, without fear of missing someone, but there is one group she gave a shout out to.
“Service clubs have been huge over the years – they have contributed a large portion of the donations on Telethon day. We usually make around $90,000 and at least $15,000 of that comes from service clubs, so it’s a really big contribution.”
The money raised at the Telethon goes towards general costs, and usually there is a “wish list” to which any extra money will be applied. This year, the focus is on building an addition to the centre, specifically for The Autism Program (TAP).
“A big chunk of the money every year is always earmarked for, as we say, keeping the lights on. The government money we get doesn’t quite meet the needs of the operation of the place, so we always rely on the Telethon funds to help with our day-to-day operations. Anything that we make over and above the operational needs, this year, is going towards a capital project of building a new space for our autism program.”
The 2015 Telethon raised $92,408 – the second-highest total in the fundraiser’s four-decade history.
“We are hopeful that we can reach that target again, or even beat it,” said Schroeder.
“In order for us to deliver our services in the manner that our parents deserve and our children deserve, and the community has become accustom to, the Telethon is vital,” Crowe said.
“Although we do have a lot of fun, we don’t do it just for fun. We do it because we need it and the community has supported us so well.”
(Subject to Change)
Legion Colour Party
Military Wives Choir – O Canada
Military Wives Choir
Georgia Strait Big Band
Judy Norbury and Joanna Finch
Bruce and Judy
Comox Valley Children’s Choir
Susie McGregor & Girls
Triple Heat Dancers
Just in Time Choir
Guides, Brownies, and Pathfinders
Dolyna Ukrainian Dancers
7 Story Circus
Jim Papp and Mike Johnson
Valley Dance Studio
Laurie Tinkler Modern Dance
Paul Rodgers and Amanda Usher
Laurie Tinkler Highland Dance
Luc Guthrie and Brodie Dawson
Sue Medley and John Mang
Kenny and Brian
Courtenay Elementary Choir