F 2021 Eagles Telethon online only, donations still accepted* ~ Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon PDC

2021 Eagles Telethon online only, donations still accepted*

By Correne Martin


The Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon, as it’s been known for 45 years in Prairie du Chien, will appear different this year because of COVID-19. It was announced last week that the televised portion of the telethon would not happen, according to a decision made by the Eagles Club committee in the interest of community health and safety.

However, donations are still being accepted toward heart disease and cancer research and prevention.

Furthermore, a scaled down, reinvented version of the traditional telethon activities is in the works to be streamed live at eaglestelethon.org on Saturday evening, Jan. 30, from 6 to 10 p.m. It will also be available on YouTube. This virtual event will be offered at the hands of five-year host Dan Moris, with mixed local talent performing, montages of comments from some of the regular supporters, and video clips from classic telethon broadcasts.

“The purpose is to raise money for heart and cancer research. That’s what the telethon is all about, and we’re going to keep that part going,” said longtime host Tom Nelson. “If this project is to promote community health and wellness, we needed to make the decision to postpone the television portion this year in order to keep the community safe. The TV show was just the vehicle for raising money. Now we have to bring donations in via a different method.”

Area and Prairie du Chien faithful viewers will observe this year’s events as a transition into the 21st Century. Though the intent is to keep the magic and nostalgia that has become representative of the Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon alive and well for the future, COVID-19 is playing a part in revolutionizing the telethon.

“Through the transition this year, it will be clear that the telethon still has great value and merit,” Nelson stated.

Eagles Club President Chad Abram explained how members will continue raising funds before and after telethon night at the club.

“We sent out our newsletter to members and, in it, members are encouraged to cut out a square from it and bring it in with their donation of $20 or more,” Abram said.

Also, there is a 54-card raffle happening for an outdoor grill, and people are invited to buy chances at that. There will potentially be chance tickets for other prizes as well, he noted.

“The club will be open the night of the telethon. There will not be a meat raffle, an auction or a meal,” Abram said. “But members and the general public are welcome to swing by, drop off a telethon donation, have a drink and head out. We have to be aware of capacity limits of course too, because we don’t want to be responsible for somebody becoming sick.”

He added, “Every dollar is a dollar toward heart and cancer research.”

Upon hearing the televised portion of the telethon was not going to happen in 2021, Moris said he talked to organizers and other volunteers about the potential to still do something virtual, honoring the tradition and nostalgia that has become so special over the past 45 years.

“There’s something going on (with the telethon) that just isn’t going on anywhere anymore. The cool thing about it is the amount of tradition that’s become baked into it,” Moris remarked.

His proposal, which was officially approved by the committee Tuesday night, is to create this new style of event that will stream online.

The content will consist of him hosting a four-hour show involving a collection of performances from local talent. In most cases, the performers will be coming to the telethon audience from the comfort of their own homes.

Moris has reached out to the many different organizations and businesses that have typically sponsored hours or answered phones during the telethon to record messages about what the Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon means to them. These will be aired during the show. Plus, there will be retro video clips played that pay homage to the past four and a half decades.

“I’m going to get together with Tom (Nelson) and Tom (Stram) and just discuss the telethon and include commentary with them as well,” Moris explained.

Currently, he is in the gathering and management stages of pulling together all the nebulous elements needed to coordinate this 46th telethon successfully.

“It’s a unique challenge,” he stated. “Like anything else I’ve done that’s similar to this, I appreciate the challenge. It’s going to fall within my own creative capabilities. But the goal is to put something out there that feels like the telethon and continue to raise money and awareness for the cause.”

In the next 10 days, Moris will be busy producing the show and preparing to go live at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Nelson is proud of the telethon’s evolution the community will see this year. He and his fellow Eagles will be thrilled with any money they can raise for Gundersen Health, Mayo Clinic and UW Health.

“Though the telethon portion is off, what’s still very much important about the Eagles Heart and Cancer Telethon are the donations,” he said. “Behind the scenes, people are still pumping away for the ‘Good of the Order.’”

**reprinted by Permission Correne Martin, Courier Press