PITTSFIELD — When Kansas opened with "Point of No Return" Saturday night, there was no turning back from a high energy classic rock fundraiser to benefit hundreds of adults and children who depend on United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County.
UCP's inaugural "Life without Limits" concert featuring the chart-topping band of the '70s and '80s played to a rousing reception at the Colonial Theatre that wasn't lost on Kansas' bass guitarist Billy Greer.
"I don't know what it is about Massachusetts, but the energy of the last three crowds [in this state] has been great," he said from the stage after the six-member musical group performed "Dust in the Wind" to a standing ovation.
Afterwards, UCP officials were ecstatic about the performance, audience reaction and gate receipts. The agency's director of marketing and development, Kristen Baker, reported ticket sales and local business sponsorships grossed $66,000; an anticipated net of up to $42,000 after expenses. In December, the agency set a goal of $40,000 goal when it booked Kansas as a main event succeeding its long-running annual telethon that wrapped up 52 years of success in January 2015.
UCP Board of Directors President Maren Jacobs believes the transition to a new major fundraiser bodes well for increased into in the programs and services UCP provides 2,400 Berkshirites with a variety of disabilities — not just cerebral palsy.
"This concert means people heard about our 'Life without Limits' mission and we reached a more diverse population," she said.
"'Life without Limits' is about anybody with any kind of disability can do anything," added board member Dan Proskin
Brittany Dorwin exemplifies that can-do attitude as the 20-year-old was crowned Miss Amazing of Massachusetts in February. The North Adams woman is now raising money so she can compete in the junior miss category of the national pageant being held in Chicago in late June. Miss Amazing features girls and women with a physical or intellectual disability, showcasing their talents, poise and intelligence, according to the competition's website.
A student at McCann Tech, Dorwin danced her way into the judges' hearts displaying her 15 years experience in ballet.
"Ballet is fun ... it expresses how people are," she said in an Eagle interview during a pre-concert reception.
Brittany and her father Dan Dorwin were among the lucky few to have a photo opportunity with Kansas back stage before the show — a bigger thrill for dad than daughter.
"I listened to them in high school and this was one band I always wanted to meet," Mr. Dorwin said with a big smile.
Saturday's concert is one of several changes in UCP's fundraising strategy in the past year. The phone-a-thon solicitation that preceded the telethon has moved to mid-April and in October, the agency will stage what they are calling a unique all-day charitable event in downtown Pittsfield. UCP officials are still hashing out the details of that event.
Former UCP executive director, Christine Singer, applauds the new fundraising director and believes the telethon went out on top.
"I don't think we'll ever forget how the telethon was very special," she said at the reception. "I would occasionally run into older people who performed as a youngster during the broadcast."
The telethon — for many years held a week before the Super Bowl — consistently netted UCP an average of $30,000 for the past decade, but it took staff and volunteers four months to plan. Apparently, the benefit concert has produced similar financial success — without being as time consuming.
After expenses, the money UCP raises locally stays in Berkshire County to support 18 UCP programs and services offered through the agency's Pittsfield and North Adams offices. The telethon was one of 20 private and public funding sources for the UCP's $3.7 million operating budget.
Founded in 1961, UCP of Berkshire County held its inaugural telethon, which evolved into a major local television event, in 1963.
The four-hour telecast, produced and aired by Pittsfield Community Television, featured local celebrities and talent. It had become Pittsfield's most elaborate live community television production next to the city's Fourth of July Parade, according to PCTV officials.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233