Saturday January 26, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Brenda Curry was once the tote board girl for United Cerebral Palsy Association of Berkshire County's annual telethon.

As a 10-year-old, Curry, formerly Brenda Fitzpatrick, flipped the number cards to indicate the latest amount that had been raised during the 1983 local telecast from the Berkshire Hilton, now The Crowne Plaza.

"I felt like a movie star," recalled the Pittsfield native, who's now married with two children.

In addition, Curry's parents, Arthur "Bud" and Karen Fitzpatrick, participated over the years in the UCP telethon because their son Brian, now 39, has cerebral palsy.

"My father would provide technical help, my mother would man the phone banks and my brother appeared many times [on camera]," said Curry, a current 12-year member of the UCP board of directors.

Curry and her father are also former board presidents.

The family involvement is typical of the Berkshire County's UCP telethon, which will mark its 50th anniversary on Sunday, according to UCP Executive Director Christine Singer.

The fundraiser from The Crowne Plaza ballroom is scheduled from 1-5 p.m and will be broadcast from North Adams to Sheffield.

Singer explained how her agency focuses on the entire family of individuals with all types of disabilities.

"In 2012, we helped 1,890 families," she said.


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"We've also been able to stay level-funded, which in this economy is pretty good."

UCP has an annual operating budget of $2.5 million.

This year's telethon goal of $35,000 is the same as in January 2012 when UCP's biggest fundraiser of the year grossed more than $36,000. After expenses, 100 percent of the money raised locally stays in Berkshire County to support UCP programs and services offered through the agency's Pittsfield and North Adams offices, according to Singer.

Founded in 1961, UCP of Berkshire County held its inaugural telethon in 1963 and has since evolved into a major local television event. The four-hour telecast hosted by area celebrities and featuring top local talent has become Pittsfield's most elaborate live community television production next to the city's Fourth of July Parade, according to Pittsfield Community Television officials.

PCTV staff and volunteers originate the broadcast that is linked to Northern Berkshire Community Television Corporation and Community Television of the Southern Berkshires over the Time Warner Cable television system.

Until 2011, NBCTC and CTSB had to rely on tape-delay broadcasts of the telethon, said David Cachat, a PCTV coordinator. That's no longer the case.

"The hookup to the rest of the county makes the event more timely and hopefully encourage more donations," Cachat said.

PCTV's Norman Schaffer will coordinate Sunday's broadcast which goes beyond soliciting donations, according to Singer.

"Not only is [the telethon] about raising money, but raising awareness of the programs we have," she said. "I get at least 10-12 phone calls right after each telethon from people seeking our help."

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

If you go or watch ...

What: 2013 UCP Telethon of Berkshire County.

When: Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

Where: Crowne Plaza, Pittsfield

Telecast: Broadcast live in Pittsfield/Dalton on PCTV, Channel 16; North County on NBCTC, Channel 15; South County on CTSB, Channel 16, all courtesy of Time Warner Cable television.

Pledges: To make donations during the telethon, call (413) 442-1562 or (413) 664-9345.