TORRINGTON — The 41st annual Tim Driscoll St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Telethon returns March 1, filling the halls and the Little Theatre at Torrington High School with music, dancing and plenty of food and refreshments.
The event this year will again be live-streamed at www.stjude.org/torrington, giving residents the chance to view the 11-hour telethon from home. For the first time, WZBG is doing a live show from the telethon during the day, and the telethon will broadcast live on Cable 5. The call-in number is 860-489-0612.
“WZBG is coming for a live broadcast from 10 a.m.-noon, and it’s very exciting to have them,” said Kristin Raymond, daughter of the event’s founder, the late Tim Driscoll. “They’ll do live reporting and live intervews, to spread the word and get people to make a pledge or come down to the high school theater.”
Last year’s telethon raised $70,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, founded by actor Danny Thomas. As always, organizers never set a goal for fundraising, and the number increases every year.
“My dad always used to say, if we set a goal and we don’t reach it, (the telethon) isn’t seen as a success,” said Raymond. “But no matter how much we raise, every year is a success. It’s important to always remember that.”
A big part of the telethon is the live music and dancing, presented by numerous school groups and dance schools.
“We’re following the same format otherwise, with a lot of returning performers and a few new ones, too,” Raymond said.
Performers ths year will include the Center for Dance Arts, Dana LaPorta’s piano students, Thomaston Center School student chorus, Torringford School dance team, the Forbes Flyers, Dream Believe Achieve Dance of New Hartford, Deborah’s Dance Workshop, Reach for the Stars dance studio, the Southwest School chorus, Sparkle and Shine Dance Studio, St. Peter St. Francis School chorus, Torrington High School’s cheer and dance teams, Torrington High School jazz band, and the Thomaston High School drama club.
“New groups joining the telethon this year are kids from Black Rock School in Thomaston, Litchfield Center School, and the Thomaston High School choir,” Raymond said. “Schools typically sing for their part in the telethon, and the dance schools are great — they always put on a good show. And it’s exciting for us to have the Thomaston choir join us.”
Another big draw to the telethon is the food sale, which is organized completely by volunteers.
“We have a group of ladies and they get food from all over. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are snacks, baked goods and lots of pies,” Raymond said. “People come for the food and to support their families who are participating in the performances. People really love the food sale.”
Raymond said this year’s door prize table is impressive.
“The volunteers have put together fantastic door prizes, better than I’ve seen anywhere else,” she said. “Local businesses donate prizes, and local school teachers and office staff create baskets, too. The Torrington schools do an outstanding job.”
Telethon guests can purchase door prize tickets when they arrive. “You don’t have to be there to win,” Raymond said. “We’ll announce the winners on air, and you can pick them up at the telethon or arrange to get them later.”
The telethon is a family effort for the Driscolls. Along with her niece, Kolbe Driscoll, Raymond’s siblings are part of the team. Raymond’s older sister Kyla Driscoll works behind the scenes with their mother, Cathy. Her cousin Derek is the event’s emcee this year. Uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins are also volunteering for the telethon, along with a crew of children of all ages.
Live-streaming the telethon has brought the telethon more visibility, Raymond said.
“We had people calling in from a lot of other states besides Connecticut last year, and people were watching all over the country,” she said. “This is a very local, amateur event, and people love it. It’s an event that wouldn’t be possible without the support of those people, and people all over Litchfield County.
“I start getting emails from people around September, asking what the date of the telethon will be, if it’s still on, and what it’s going to have,” she said. “Each year, my aunt Lisa handles the phone room, and I over see the talent and the sponsors. It’s a family event but we need our community members to come out and support it, and they always do. The pledges are $5, $10 or $20, and maybe it was difficult for a family to make that pledge, but they always do. It’s very humbling and gratifying.”
When she takes the stage to welcome participants, Driscoll and her niece Kolbe wear their best dresses. This year, Maria Christine’s Bridal Shop is providing those dresses, as well as tuxedos for the men. That spirit of community is what makes the telethon such a success, Raymond said.
“We’ve got it down to a science now, from start to cleanup,” she said. ‘It’s better than it used to be, and we are so fortunate to have so many people involved.”
The Tim Driscoll St. Jude Children’s Hospital Telethon runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 1 at Torrington High School, 50 Major Besse Drive. There is no charge to attend; bring money for door prize tickets and food. If you can’t attend, call the pledge line at 860-489-0612 or tune in to Cable 5 or www.stjude.org/torrington.