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Telethon raises $210,000 for Smokies

Jason Boyer (from left) of WLOS, Grace Friar and Russell Biven of WBIR during the 24th annual Friends Across the Mountains broadcast on Aug. 15. Donated photo Jason Boyer (from left) of WLOS, Grace Friar and Russell Biven of WBIR during the 24th annual Friends Across the Mountains broadcast on Aug. 15. Donated photo

Friends of the Smokies collected $210,525 in donations during its 24th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon from hundreds of callers, online donations and support from sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J and SmartBank.

“This community has always come together to meet the needs of the national park in their own backyard, and this night was no exception,” said Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, whose wife and daughter volunteered during the broadcast. “Our friends and neighbors on both sides of the mountains pledged their support — even my daughter’s high school teacher called in to make a donation. We are so thankful to have Friends of the Smokies in our corner.”

Donations made Wednesday night will support the organization’s 25th Anniversary Signature Project to upgrade the park’s emergency radio systems. The $2.5 million effort will leverage $1.25 million in federal funds and grants to match every donation made to Friends of the Smokies. The state-of-the-art radio upgrades will allow rangers to respond more quickly and effectively to emergency situations in the park, keep more than 11 million annual visitors safe, and communicate with emergency services in surrounding communities. In addition to this capital campaign project, Friends of the Smokies will provide more than $1.2 million in annual support to the national park.

Since 1995, Friends of the Smokies’ telethons have raised more than $3.9 million in support of America’s most-visited national park. The telethon was broadcast live Wednesday night on WBIR in Knoxville and WLOS in Asheville.

Matching telethon donations can still be made online at FriendsOfTheSmokies.org/donate or by calling the North Carolina Friends of the Smokies office at 828.452.0720.

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