Nearly $3.5 million has been raised since the radio-telethon for the benefit of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults began back in 1973, with a high of more than $217,000 raised in 2007.
The Hillsboro and Greenfield Rotary Clubs will host the 45th annual Ernie Blankenship Radio-Telethon for the benefit of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults on Wednesday, March 29. The event will be broadcast live from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. from the US Bank main office in Hillsboro on the local community access channel of the Time Warner Cable System, and on WSRW 101.5 and WSRW AM 1590.
In Greenfield, the event will be broadcast from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. from the McClain High School Media Room on the local community access channel of Time Warner Cable System along with periodic broadcasts on radio station WVNU FM 97.5.
The telethon was named for Blankenship in 2013 because of the broadcaster’s annual hosting duties for the event and his tireless year-round efforts to lead the fundraising for the cause. After his passing it became a memorial in his honor in 2014.
After the economic downturn in 2008, fundraising for the telethon dropped off, with a recent-year low of about $104,000 in 2015. But last year saw a slight bounce-back, with nearly $106,000 raised. Still, raising more than $100,000 a year is a significant accomplishment considering its first years in the early 1970s saw totals of around just $2,000 to $3,000.
According to a press release, all funds are used by the Society to provide assistance and services to Highland County children and adults who have extraordinary expenses for necessary medical treatment, transportation, equipment and other health care devices. It works in conjunction with other local government and private agencies to provide financial assistance to Highland County residents who have medical expenses not covered by insurance or other programs.
The Society is a unique organization. It was originally established as a local branch of the Easter Seal Society in 1950. Rotary Club members were involved in the founding of the organization and numerous Rotarians have served on its board of trustees. In 1983 with support of the two Rotary Clubs, the board of trustees decided to become an independent countywide organization because approximately 38% of its revenue was being paid to the national Easter Seal Society for advertising and other national expenses.
The board felt that it should use as much of the donations as possible for direct benefit of county residents. Over the past several years, administrative costs have averaged approximately 8% of the annual budget, which is extremely low for non-profit charitable groups. Many local health providers work closely with the Society and provide services at a reduced cost to the patients receiving financial assistance.
The first radio-telethon was held in 1973 at the former Hillsboro Bank office in Hillsboro and raised $1,715.00. During the past 44 years, the two Rotary Clubs have raised nearly three and a half million dollars for the Society. Almost all of the Society’s funds are raised through this event. The Society has seen an increase in financial need for medical expenses by many local families in the past three years, and anticipates this will continue
Many school classes, youth groups and other local service groups will be conducting fundraising activities for the Society and will have representatives present during the evening to present the proceeds to the Society. Any local group or business is welcome to make their presentation in person on the air.
This year, Herb Day will again join Hillsboro Rotary Club President Rick Williams as a co-host of the event. The first hour of the broadcast in Hillsboro will feature students from county schools and youth organizations who have raised funds for the event.
The Hillsboro portion of the radio-telethon will be live streamed on the internet thanks to Terry Mikkelsen who has provided the camera and technology services for the local community access station broadcast for the past several years assisted by Ron Hennison, Jr. Persons who wish to watch the live stream on the web can do so by logging on at www.tech-t.com/telethon.
From 6-9 p.m., Rotarians will take pledges by telephone or in person for those who come to the bank during the broadcast. Pledges can be made during the telethon by calling 393-1993. Any donation, no matter the amount will be appreciated. Checks can be dropped off at any local bank or mailed to the Society at P.O. Box 258, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133.
The following fundraising totals and radio-telethon timeless were supplied by Rocky Coss, the Highland County common pleas judge who leads Hillsboro Rotary’s fundraising efforts and whose wife, Gayle, has been the Society’s executive secretary since 2005.
Rotary Radio/Telethon Fundraising Results
Highland County Society For Children And Adults Historical Timeline
November 13, 1950
The Farm and Community Council hosted a meeting at the Highland County Court House to organize a local group to work with The Ohio Easter Seal Society to help crippled children. Representatives of various organizations including Rotary Clubs attended. 51 persons became charter members of the Highland County Society for Crippled Children. A constitution and by-laws were adopted.
First Officers and Organizations represented:
President: W.D. Crosley, Health Council
Vice President: Rev. Ed Bousman, Presbyterian Church
Secretary: Mrs. Ferry Roberts, Advisory Council
Treasurer: James L. Byrd, Rotary Club
Easter Seals: Mrs. Doris Smith, Home and Community Council
Programs: Dorothy Winters, County Health Nurse
Viola Grandy, County Health Nurse
Membership: Mrs. George Lucas, Home & Community Council
Publicity: Harold Powell, Rotary Club
Freida Simpkins, Civic Club
Fundraising included Lily Parade flower sales by Boy Scouts, bake sales, mail campaign, card party, food sales. Rotary shared expense with society on several equipment purchases for crippled children.
October 12, 1954
Name was changed to Highland County Society for Crippled Children and Adults as part of a new constitution suggested by the Ohio Easter Seal Society. Board members included Hillsboro Rotarians James Byrd, Dr. Clifford Foor, Darrell Hottle, Dr. Carl Sites and James Hapner.
November 25, 1957
Helen Lowell becomes the “File Clerk” to maintain records regarding persons assisted at $5.00 per month.
January 14, 1959
Helen Lowell hired as the first “Executive Secretary at a salary of $30.00 per month.
April 7-8, 1973
First Radio-Telethon held at Hillsboro Bank & Savings in conjunction with National Easter Seal Society Telethon.
February 21, 1978
Name changed to Highland County Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults to conform to national and state trends as Easter Seals was helping adults as well as children.
March 27, 1979
Betty Collins hired as new Executive Secretary.
August 20, 1981
Incorporated as an Ohio Non-Profit Corporation as Highland County Society for Crippled Children and Adults, Inc.
Severed ties with Easter Seal Society to become independent organization.
July 26, 1993
Name changed to Highland County Society for Children and Adults, Inc.
Nina Wharton hired as Executive Secretary.
June 1, 2005
Gayle Coss hired as Executive Secretary.