Small Miracles Community Opens Its Hearts And Wallets During Annual CMN Telethon

Even severely reduced on-air time couldn’t keep the 16th annual Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) telethon at Baystate Medical Center from reaching its goals.
For the seventh straight year, the telethon that benefits the Children’s Hospital at Baystate and other regional children’s health services surpassed the $500,000 mark, despite only six hours of air time on WWLP-TV22 on June 1 and 2, the shortest amount of televised coverage in years, said Ely Dunn, manager of the CMN.
“As I see it, people’s generosity after Sept. 11 has really increased,” Dunn said. “I think people are just grateful to have their kids healthy and happy, and they see the importance of a children’s hospital right in their own backyard.”

One other factor was that, because of the shortened air time, virtually all segments were the popular ‘miracle matching’ times, another returning feature whereby area businesses matched call-in donations. “People knew that when they called in, that $30 pledge turned into $60,” Dunn said.

The telethon was co-chaired by Kurt and Paula Welker, co-owners of Fitness First Health Club in Feeding Hills, and co-hosted by Lynn Barry and Rich Tettemer, news reporter and weekend anchor, respectively, for Channel 22. As in past years, organizers brought back two past “miracle kids” — Megan Costello of Wilbraham and Cory Garwacki of East Longmeadow — to serve as ‘mini-hosts.’

“Even though people had this very small opportunity to call and make their pledges, they were able to, so we’re very, very happy with the results,” Dunn said. An above-ground swimming pool, donated by Teddy Bear Pools and Spas and auctioned off during the telethon, also added to the total.

The telethon, which originated from Baystate’s Chestnut Conference Center, came on the heels of a radiothon in March that raised $60,000 and likely boosted the visibility of the telethon, also adding to its success, Dunn said.

All money raised at the telethon will benefit children’s health care services at Baystate Medical Center Children’s Hospital, Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, and Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, as well as the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Western New England.

“Basically, what we tried to do was to tell the story of our children’s hospital, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and to educate people in the community about the criteria you need to be designated a children’s hospital,” including a pediatric residency program, Dunn said. “And we told several heartwarming stories about kids who had been treated at our hospital.”

The hospital has worked on community events throughout the year, Dunn said, including a collaborative effort with the Safe Kids Coalition of Western Mass., which promotes safety in activities such as bicycling and water recreation. These events also no doubt raised the visibility of the telethon and contributed to its success, she added.

As telethon co-chairs, the Welkers expressed gratitude at the response of the community. “We hope that through our efforts,” they said, “more and more people will come to know the importance of Baystate Medical Center Children’s Hospital and its sister hospitals as valuable resources for children in our communities.”