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Lindon Dodd, a local columnist with the Evening News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, shares his experience of being a volunteer during the WHAS Crusade for Children over the weekend of June 6, 2009.
The trials and joys of being a crusader
At 7:44 p.m. on June 8, 2003, Demitri Miles, 10-year-old son of then-Jeffersonville Fire Department Maj. Clark Miles, took a $1 bill out of the money collected and passed it from hand to hand. It eventually reached the hands of Jeffersonville businessman Ted Throckmorton, whose eyes were beginning to moisten.
As the lone bill made its way to the end of the line, it was individually tallied. Thus was the Jeffersonville connection to history in the Crusade for Children. That $1 bill represented $100 million that had been collected in the then 50-year history of the WHAS Crusade and is recounted in a book celebrating the first 50 years of the Crusade for Children.
Kim, Cameron and I can now officially be called crusaders! We volunteered last Sunday to work at the studios of WHAS television on the Crusade for Children staff. Now that I have a string of one year under my belt, I can’t help but admire another streak.
When Ted Throckmorton held that dollar bill in his hands, he had every right to feel an emotional sense of pride. On that Sunday afternoon six years ago, he was celebrating his 50th year as a volunteer.
This past week, he was honored as one of three men who have now worked in every one of the 56 Crusade for Children campaigns and received The Founders Award — the other two being former WHAS Director Bob Pilkington and broadcasting legend Milton Metz. When presented, Terry Meiners jokingly referred to Throckmorton’s as the Flounder’s Award.
Everyone at the studio knew Ted. One little-known story involves Ted providing some cold beverages for the volunteers when he owned Clark County Beverage Co. When he sold his distributorship, I was told this past weekend that part of the deal involved the buyer agreeing to continue providing donated beverages for the volunteer workers.
When our small volunteer group representing American Commercial Lines in Jeffersonville reported for duty, we discovered that more help had shown up than was needed at the moment.
My wife, Kim, was assigned to another duty in the check department — tallying with a calculator, endorsing and preparing checks for deposit. Two other members, Alayne Wright and Rick Rasche, were also assigned other duties. Cameron was helping out in the food/dining area. Kim, Reuben King and I were treated by our volunteer coordinator, Sharon Miller, to a grand tour of the operations, including the control/production room.
The entire operation was simply a very organized chaos leading up to the live, on-air production. Sirens and firefighters abounded in a steady stream. Local entertainer Patrick Henry Hughes made an appearance and performed, much to my son Cameron’s enjoyment. A mass of volunteers went about their assigned duties, such as parking lot remote producer Mike Noland, who was coordinating the entry and exit of the firefighters.
Noland is a computer software expert by trade but has volunteered for many years at the Crusade. He self-mockingly described the main focus of his job as to keep the fire trucks from running into a wall, a fence or each other. He boasted of a perfect record of zero collisions on his watch.
Eventually, a shift change occurred and our little group set about our task of pouring massive amounts of folding currency on a table and separating the bills into the separate denominations, all facing upward in order that they might be fed into electronic counting machines. Obviously $1 bills dominated the large piles of cash, but it was not unusual to have $20s, $50s, and $100s interspersed.
As I have always found with people who volunteer for community service projects, there was a light-hearted camaraderie throughout the day. People who had never met just hours earlier were trading good-natured personal barbs back and forth as the potentially tedious repetitiveness of money separating and stacking seemed as if but a minor distraction to the banter.
One benefit of volunteering was the unbelievable amount of food and drink donated by area businesses — though by the end of the day, most of us were complaining about the lack of self control and that need for antacid relief from overindulging.
Being a part of and observing just how much hard work, planning, organization and the sheer volume and scope of watching from behind the scenes at an event such as the WHAS Crusade for Children reinforces what a very special thing occurred for the 56th consecutive year. It entails the best of all of Kentuckiana and areas through Kentucky as far as Bowing Green, Fayette County and the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
Ted Throckmorton recalled past years of how the telethon became a marathon for volunteers, usually ending in the wee hours of the morning. Technology and the advent of remote broadcasts have greatly shortened the length of the volunteer day. This past Sunday had an enforced deadline as the network was scheduled to carry the NBA Championship at 7:30 p.m.
Another longtime but now retired WHAS broadcasting legend, Bud Harbsmeier, spent a few minutes talking with me. When I asked the two most important things people should know about the Crusade, he stated that 100 percent of the donations go to help disabled kids and that money collected in a particular region or area directly benefited that area.
I had talked with Ted Throckmorton during the week when I had discussed with him our family volunteering. We also talked about how he used to be something akin to a scratch golfer and how he has another streak going in that he has shot his age for several years in a row. The only thing his game and mine have in common is that that I occasionally scratch myself during a round of golf.
I kiddingly told him that if he made 60 consecutive years as a Crusade volunteer that he would warrant a little bit of ink. After arriving home a bit physically exhausted — albeit altruistically fulfilled — after our initial six-hour-plus volunteer stint, I kind of figured out that 56 years might be worthy of a mention.
In doing the math, I figured out that I could match Throckmorton’s 56-year string if I volunteer every year from now until I am 109 years old. I wonder if I will be able to shoot my age on a golf course then as well in the year — 2064?