Photo Gallery: 51st annual UCP Telethon

PITTSFIELD -- For Theresa McGuire and her disabled daughter Clara, United Cerebral Palsey of Berkshire County has been a godsend.

McGuire has relied heavily on UCP's Adult Family Care program to provide a case manager and registered nurse for Clara. For six years, the 26-year-old professional photographer has suffered from a rare disorder that causes severe migraine headaches and abdominal pain that leaves the young woman mostly bed-ridden.

The program also provides a generous tax-free monthly stipend to Theresa for being Clara's round-the-clock caregiver, with plenty of help from Marie McGuire, the young woman's grandmother.

Therersa, 53, is thankful for the stipend, funded through MassHealth, as she can no longer hold a full-time job due to her daughter's illness that often requires hospitalization.

"I'm on alert 24/7, sometimes lying on top of my bed in clothes ready to go [to Berkshire Medical Center]," she said. "The community needs to know UCP is there to help no matter the disability."

"They are exceptional."

McGuire's praise of the nonprofit social service agency came prior to UCP of Berkshire County's 51st annual telethon broadcast Sunday afternoon from the Crowne Plaza hotel -- that never aired beyond the Pittsfield area as planned.

The four-hour telecast hosted by area celebrities and featuring top local talent, originated with Pittsfield Community Television and was to be simulcast on community television channels in North and South County, all on the Time Warner Cable television system.

However, UCP Executive Director Christine Singer said technical problems prevented the county-wide broadcast and telethon organizers were unable to reach Time Warner officials in order to correct the problem. Throughout the telethon, viewers are continuously encouraged to phone in pledges for UCP's biggest fundraiser of the year while other individuals, business and civic organizations made on-air contributions.

Despite the technical difficulties, Singer was pleased the telethon raised $32,800, slightly more than last year, but missing the annual goal of $35,000.

In addition, a raffle and silent auction were held to raise money for the telethon. UCP of Berkshire County hopes to reach its goal through post-telethon donations accepted year round by mail or online at www.ucpberkshire.org.

After expenses, 100 percent of the money raised locally stays in Berkshire County to support Adult Family Care, one of 17 UCP programs and services offered through the agency's Pittsfield and North Adams offices.

Singer says the McGuire's situation is a classic example of the broad range of support UCP provides beyond those with cerebral palsey.

"We want all people to benefit from what we have to offer," she said.

Aside from fundraising, the UCP telethon allows the agency to espouse how they serve nearly 1,900 families of individuals with a variety of disabilities.

Alice Lessman of Pittsfield receives life skills support from UCP staff and volunteers, helping her deal with finances, managing medical issues and other daily matters so she can live on her own. Starting today, Lessman begins a UCP cooking class.

"I want to learn how to make zucchini bread," she said. "My grandmother used to make it."

UCP of Berkshire County also assists older residents, especially those trying to enhance their computer skills. Eighty-something Silvia Cohen says the UCP Assistive Technology Regional Center is teaching her how to use an Amazon Kindle, the Internet company's electronic book reader.

"[UCP] set it up for me and I've already downloaded some e-books," she said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233