F Courier Press ~ Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon PDC

Courier Press

This wishing well, made by Scott and Tom Paulson, from an
idea of Gail Zirngibl’s, will be at the Eagles Telethon for youth to
bring their wishes and coins and drop them in.
Forty-four years speaks volumes for our community—that it’s willing to have this telethon and showcase what Prairie du Chien really is and what we have done.” The never speechless Tom Nelson said this about the Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon and its dedicated committee, talent, and viewers who’ve, together, brought a “breath of fresh air” to the middle of winter and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical research since 1976.
“It’s an opportunity to spotlight our youth, our working class and us old-timers who still choose to live in Prairie du Chien. Through that process, we raise a little money,” Nelson added.

The reality is, more than just a little money has been donated. The telethon has amassed $906,517.46, in 43 years, to be exact.

Those funds have all contributed to research in the fields of heart disease and cancer, through medical institutions in La Crosse and Madison, trickling down to Prairie du Chien as well.

This year’s Eagles Telethon will be Saturday, Jan. 26, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., live from the Bluff View School cafeteria and broadcast on local Mediacom channel 6 and on YouTube. Visit eaglestelethon.org to access online viewing—whether you live afar or are watching from the comfort of your own home locally.

The 2019 telethon theme is “A Family Reunion.”

“Families connect for the telethon. It might be for a few moments while on stage, or for the three months we spend planning this project,” Nelson said, also pointing out that the telethon connects the families of Gundersen, Mayo, Crossing Rivers and UW-Madison for medical research. It further connects area businesses and organizations who donate time and money to this mutual cause.

The telethon committee recognizes there’s always a challenge to keep bringing out newness in each year’s event. Yet they believe in the importance of featuring some of the standbys that people look forward to on a yearly basis.

One of the newest ventures for 2019 is a wooden wishing well, handcrafted by Scott and Tom Paulson from an idea produced by Gail Zirngibl. Their creation will serve as a way to encourage young kids to go to the live telethon studio, share their written wishes and perhaps some coins from their piggy banks, and possibly end up being a star on TV.

“They’re supposed to be thinking about family,” Zirngibl said, noting that wish forms were provided
Hosts Dan Moris (left) and Tom Stram announce the
telethon’s efforts of surpassing a major milestone during
the 2018 telethon.
to all Prairie du Chien schools for distribution to students. “This is a way the kids can get involved and do their part.”
Nelson said he hopes there’s time to read a few special wishes on the air.

The well will be auctioned off later on in the night.

All are welcome to stop by Bluff View to see the telethon live. Food, treats, and beverages are sold on site and there’s also side entertainment in addition to the ongoing show.

In addition, throughout the telethon, there will be plenty of activities, such as a dinner and meat raffle, happening at the Eagles Club in Prairie du Chien. “This is where there’s the connection back to the club and the Eagles Aerie 1502,” Nelson said.

In the coming few years, it’s likely the Eagles Telethon will surpass the $1 million mark, considering at least $40,000 has been raised each year since 2015. Nelson feels the telethon is sustainable because of the people who put it together and the people who support it.

In total, he said close to 300 community members are involved with making the telethon happen, including 20 people on the committee, 50 people helping with setup Friday, 200 people who are part of the show and others who help with Eagles Club activities.

“We all believe in the reality of what needs to be done in our lives,” he stated. “It’s the right thing to do.”
*Courrier Press, 1/18/2019