Peoria Telethon raises record $3 million during 25th annual show

It began in 1978 as a small idea and a handful of volunteers who sought to create a telethon to raise money for the children of St. Jude.

Six years earlier, St. Jude had come to Peoria, establishing its first-ever affiliation with a local hospital. A group of volunteers sought to demonstrate how much the community cared for the hospital that was striving to find a way to cure childhood cancer.

That first year, the volunteers shocked themselves by raising $90,000 during the telethon.

This year, the St. Jude Telethon, which spans across Central Illinois, celebrated its 25th year with a six-hour, prime time broadcast that brought in more than $3 million for St. Jude children.

Viewers called in pledges from across the area as they watched celebrity entertainment, live music and patients and families tell of their experiences with St. Jude. Checks were also presented from a variety of other fund-raising events that took place around the area throughout the year.

One of the highlights of the show each year is when the St. Jude Runners who have come from Memphis, Chicago, St. Louis and a host of other destinations arrive in Peoria.

The group of runners, which includes volunteers and patient families, gathered donations in advance and then endured the sweltering heat and blistering sun for three days as they ran to Peoria.

This year the St. Jude Runners brought in nearly $1.2 million to present to telethon host Jim Maloof, member of the ALSAC/St. Jude Boards of Directors and Governors and former mayor of Peoria.

“We owe our success and gratitude to the generous and caring volunteers throughout Central Illinois who continue to give,” Maloof said. “I would also like to applaud the Midwest Affiliate’s Board of Directors and the staff under the new leadership of Associate Director Paula Sapinski. With this great combination of people, the Midwest Affiliate’s success will continue to grow.”

Businesses such as the Peoria NBC affiliate WEEK-TV 25 and Bergner’s department store have generously sponsored the telethon since its inception and helped the fund-raising event to raise more than $25 million in its 25-year history.

November - December 2002