By David Yarger
On Saturday, the Niagara Falls Fire Department continued one of its most favorite traditions: the annual toy fund telethon at Niagara Falls High School.
The telethon runs yearly on the first Saturday of December from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The telethon is also broadcasted and produced live on the Our Schools Channel (OSC 21), as well as online at osc.viebit.com and Facebook, by Niagara Falls High School students and Media Education Director Rich Meranto.
During the telethon, viewers can call in donations, which benefit the Niagara Falls Firefighter Christmas Toy Fund.
The fund, which has been around for nearly 90 years, helps give kids and families in need around the local area an enjoyable Christmas.
During the telethon, there is musical and dance performances from local groups, a basket auction with prizes provided by local businesses and toy fund supporters, and more.
In his first year as chairman of the telethon, John O'Malley said the event was a great time for all and the atmosphere was really vibrant.
"It was fantastic. Everybody had a good time," O'Malley said. "This is like our fun event. Everyone seemed to be having fun; the hosts were having fun. It was a good time."
The first year chairman had previously been associated with the telethon for seven years. O'Malley said he's seen the support of the community, but this year, it was surreal.
"In my first year as chairman, I really got a bigger look at things," O'Malley said. "The community is outstanding and overwhelmingly supportive of our cause. It's surreal to hear the stories from people; some who may have been affected by it. The stories are really something to hear."
This year's telethon raised $72,781.23, which will go towards the toy fund and providing a better Christmas to kids in the area. O'Malley said the total is nearly $3,000 greater than last year's event, which he added is "astounding."
To see the event continue to grow over the years, O'Malley said it's real special.
"To see this grow is amazing," he said. "Looking back, it's hard to imagine seeing all of this - everything we've accomplished - is for real. It's surreal. And really we want to accomplish more for next year. It's unbelievable what we've been able to accomplish."
For those who like to plan ahead, next year's NFFD Toy Fund telethon will be Saturday, Dec. 7.
Niagara Falls High School media students and Media Education Director Rich Meranto who helped in the 12-hour production of the telethon. Students who volunteered included, Zak Meranto, Zach Suess, Mat Owens, AJ Jocoy, Molly Chiarella, Jacob Moshholder, Josh Bosi, Felicity Tiberi, Logan Noworyta, Yaz Sarkees and Mikalya DaCosta. (Photo submitted by Rich Meranto)