By: Steve Burger
They came by the hundreds.
Little kids with piggy banks.
Older brothers and sisters with their lawn mowing money.
Representatives of large corporations with six figure checks in hand.
All of those and more came to Eastland Mall Wednesday in a constant slow of support for the victims of last Sunday's tornado. And at WNIN-PBS 9's studios in downtown Evansville, a phone bank of 25 volunteers couldn't keep up with the flood of calls announcing donations from thousands of folks in this area and around the country.
It's been a tough week for the Tri-State. Wednesday, things got a little brighter when folks showed their support for tornado victims by giving in unprecedented levels during the Tri-State Tornado Relief Telethon.
When the telethon went off the air at 9pm CST, the total was $1,219,059. Nearly $30,000 more in donations came in after the telethon ended, and 14 WFIE general manager Lucy Himstedt offered to pay the balance to bring the official total to $1,250,000.
With only three days to prepare, a coalition of media that included 14 WFIE, Fox 7, WNIN and the South Central Communications group of radio stations, including the local WB affiliate, dropped all competitive efforts to to make sure the telethon came off without a hitch.
At Eastland Mall, Mike Blake and Fox 7's Randy Moore and representatives of the South Central radio group received large corporate donations as well as much smaller ones from kids that walked up and dumped change from their piggy banks and money they collected going house to house for the relief effort.
At WNIN, Jeff Lyons, Fox 7's Ron Rhodes and WNIN general manager David Dial read as many phone pledges as they could. The stack of pledge cards became so large that at times, the hosts were fumbling with them and even dropping some that had to be retrieved and read on the air.
Telethon workes say they ran out of pledge forms and charge card forms several times during the day and had to scramble to find more.
As the evening wore on, it was clear the telethon became a symbol of Tri-Stater's resolve to come back from the terrible blow dealt to this area in a few minutes Sunday morning.
Every dollar raised Wednesday goes directly to the local Red Cross and Salvation Army chapters in Vanderburgh and Warrick counties.
The telethon was the first of three tornado relief events that will be broadcast on 14 WFIE. On Sunday, we will carry a special prayer service at 1pm CST from Bethel Temple in Evansville. Then, at 8pm CST Sunday evening, the Evansville Philharmonic will present a concert in support of the victims.