The Telethon

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Each year, the talent is a little bit different; the long-time veterans bring back the favorites and the newcomers add a touch of their own flair. But in the end, the result is the same: the community of Prairie du Chien raises thousands of dollars for the Eagles Club Heart and Cancer Telethon.

There is something special about the next Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon held at Bluff View school, Prairie du Chien, Wi, on the last Saturday of January.

“Each year promises to be extra special,” says Tom Nelson, one of the Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon organizers and MCs. “The planning group has started monthly meetings early this year in anticipation of this anniversary. With each meting we add something new and exciting.”

The history of the Prairie du Chien Eagles Club Heart and Cancer Telethon dates back to 1976, when committee members included Bob Steele, Faye Grim, Dick Obmascher, Bob Sebastian, Edward Ferrin, Jim Bittner Sr., Richard Hagensack and Bob Zeil. In its inaugural year, the event raised $3,200. It was held in the building that now houses MediaCom.

For the first four years, the amount raised for heart and cancer research hovered between $3,200 and $4,400. In 1981, the decision was made to move the telethon to B.A. Kennedy, as more room was necessary for the growing night of fun. That year, the funds raised equaled $6,600, more than double the first year’s output.

In 1993, the telethon surpassed the $10,000 mark, and it has continued to grow ever since. In 1998, it brought in $20,000, and in 2003, $30,000. For the past 10 years, especially since the 2000 move to Bluff View, the yearly collection has netted between $30,000 and $40,000. Last year, 2016, the telethon raised $43,723.00. Combining all the years, the Prairie du Chien community telethon’s 42-year tally is up to $810,566.00. And things aren’t slowing down.

According to Nelson, all the money the telethon has raised has been earmarked specifically for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Research Foundation, the Gundersen-Lutheran Foundation, and the Franciscan Skemp Foundation—regional entities that benefit local residents.

“It’s nice that it’s gone for research in this local region,” Nelson said. “We’re allowed to disperse it where we want.”

“Any expenses are paid for by the Eagles Club,” said Paul White, another telethon committee member who has been a part of the telethon since he started answering phones 37 years ago. “And the money we raise doesn’t just come out of Prairie du Chien. We get it from Eastman, Wauzeka, Bloomington, Boscobel, McGregor, Marquette, etc.”

While the money is the key reason for holding the Heart and Cancer Telethon, the Eagles Club and community put on a real show each and every year as well. Nelson said the production utilizes three cameras and another that moves around, making the spectacle quite professional.

“We have a pretty effective means of communicating our auction items,” Nelson stated. “MediaCom brings another level of professionalism to our show with their technological capabilities.”

So, once again, the telethon will kick off with great vitality at 5 p.m. on the last Saturday in January. The in-studio audience, seating 50-60 people, is a place where anyone can enjoy the live show up close and personal. Otherwise, the public is welcome to enjoy the telethon on the air waves of Cable Channel 6. The event will be streamed live on the Internet at www.ustream.com (search “Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon” you should see the Eagles Club logo or what looks like a tiny Ch. 6 screen, if it’s being broadcast live).

Be sure to watch the telethon and consider doing your part for heart and cancer research.

“We never set a goal. But we say if we can raise $1 more, we’re happy,” Nelson said. “Obviously the objective of the telethon is to raise money, but the goal of the telethon is to bring the community together in an effort to recognize talents and give people a chance to gather and enjoy themselves.”