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Rainbow Connection Thanks Community, Breaks Record at 51st Telethon



Rainbow Connection Executive Director Perci Garner (left), Board Members, and volunteers particpate in the organization's 51st Telethon on March 10th.
Rainbow Connection Executive Director Perci Garner (left), Board Members, and volunteers particpate in the organization's 51st Telethon on Sunday.

During their 51st Annual Telethon, the Tuscarawas Society for Children & Adults (better known as Rainbow Connection) broke their fundraising record, raising more than $328,000 to help disabled and disadvantaged individuals in Tuscarawas County.

 

“Our community continues to blow us away with the support they provide to their neighbors,” said Rainbow Connection Executive Director Perci Garner. “Every dollar raised through our telethon and auction directly supports those requesting assistance from our organization.”

 

The five-hour fundraiser hosted Sunday, March 10 at Tuscarawas Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School featured many community guests and organizations, including:            - The Tuscarawas County Challenger Baseball organization;

- Individuals who received support from Rainbow Connection for medical bills, transportation expenses associated with treatment, and medical equipment;

- The winners of the organization’s Telethon Art Contest;

- Students from New Philadelphia Central Elementary School;

- Dover Avenue 4th graders, led by music teacher James Graves, who sang Los Colores De La Vida from their recent ‘The Colors of Life’ musical;

- New Philadelphia High School Student Council members;

- Students from New Philadelphia South Elementary School;

- Newcomerstown Middle School Multi-Handicapped Life Skills students and staff members;

- TCC students and the school’s Assistant Principal Dave Garbrandt;

- and staff members and artists from Starlight Enterprises.

 

“Our auction looked a little different this year,” Garner said. “For the first time, all items closed at the same time and also incorporated experiences and items relevant to our mission and those who appeared on the telethon.”

 

During the telethon, Garner and co-host Kevin Fitzgerald of Subway surprised the Challengers team with the news that—thanks to the winner of an auction item—all members of the team will have the opportunity to attend, see their organization’s name on the scoreboard, and run the bases during the May 19 Cleveland Guardians game against the Minnesota Twins. The winning auction item included 60 tickets for the Challengers team, $10 concession stand vouchers for players, and 4 tickets for the winning bidder. It sold for $5,000.

 

“Our schools continue to show-up for us, and we cannot thank them enough for the support they show to us and to the families who attend their districts who could use our help,” Garner said of the schools who made their donations live during the telethon. Garner said they are continuing to receive donations raised by Tuscarawas County schools.

 

Rainbow Connection recently assisted Newcomerstown Middle School with replacing two thirty-year-old ovens in their Multi-Handicapped Life Skills class. As a thank you to the organization, the class baked cupcakes to be auctioned off. The 16 chocolate and strawberry cupcakes raised $170 for the organization.

 

Starlight Enterprises artists Chris Gonter-Dray and Rodney Fuller each donated paintings to the auction, which raised a combined $415.

 

“In addition to an assortment of items, services, and events, we also had ten ‘Rainbow Items’ up for purchase in our auction this year that detail the work we do and let members of our community know the cost of healthcare expenses faced by their neighbors.”

 

Rainbow Items were direct donations to the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and included:

            -$35 for a Physical Therapy Co-Pay

            -$75 for Long-Term Prescription Assistance

            -$150 for Transportation to Treatment outside Tuscarawas County

            -$250 for EMS Transportation

            -$540 to provide an emergency alert system to a community member for a year

            -$700 for Diagnostically Necessary Dental Work

            -$1,000 for Emergency Prescription Assistance for medications like Insulin

            -$2,000 for School Equipment

            -$3,000 for a Hearing Aid

            -$4,000 for a Medical Device

 

“We didn’t sell all of our Rainbow Items, and that’s okay with us,” Garner said. “Our hope was to increase awareness for the assistance we are able to provide. If any one person saw those items and said, ‘man, I didn’t know they did that,’ and then applies to us for assistance because of it, we’ll consider it a success.”

 

In addition to Garner and Fitzgerald, the event was hosted by Dover Exchange Club member Shane Gunnoe and Kait Gallagher-Wilsterman of Tusco MFG, Jeff Mathias of Mathias Realty and Wendy’s Chris Lane, and Jan McInturf of McInturf Realty and Steve VanHorn of Simpson Salute Heating and Cooling. Former Executive Director Carmel Haueter joined Garner during the final hour of the show.

 

Haueter served as Executive Director of the Rainbow Connection for 22 years before passing the torch to Garner at the end of 2020. Both Garner and Haueter thanked the individuals and businesses of Tuscarawas County who continue to grow both the organization and the telethon through their generosity.

 

Total donations at recent Telethons are:

2024 - $328,091.66           

2023 - $306,580.30           

2022 - $269,546.00           

2021 - $272,263.77

2020 - $289,000.00

 

Learn more about Rainbow Connection at www.tuscrainbow.org.

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