Friends of the Smokies raised $205,562 Wednesday at its 22nd annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon thanks to hundreds of callers, online donations and support from sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J, Tennessee State Bank, and The Lodge at Buckberry Creek. Since 1995, Friends of the Smokies’ telethons have raised more than $3.5 million in support of America’s most-visited national park. The telethon aired live Wednesday night on WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn. and WLOS in Asheville, N.C.
The broadcast also celebrated Thursday’s 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude, once again, by the support of individuals and organizations throughout the region that help us care for the Smokies. This park was founded by community and your continued support is critical as we move into the second century of service,” said Cassius Cash, superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Telethon donations can still be made online at www.FriendsOfTheSmokies.org/donate to help fund more than $840,000 of park needs this year to protect black bears, educate school children, and preserve historic log cabins and churches from Cades Cove to Cataloochee Valley.
At its recent meeting, the Board of Directors of Friends of the Smokies voted to establish a special fund to honor Bill Williams for his 22 years of volunteer service as co-host of the Friends Across the Mountains Telethon. Friends of the Smokies’ board members made an initial gift of more than $10,000 to create this fund and the proceeds of Wednesday’s telethon will be included in this new “Bill Williams Smokies Greatest Needs Fund” to be used to address pressing needs throughout the Park.
During the program, Tennessee State Bank presented Friends of the Smokies with a $15,000 check of proceeds from the bank’s Smoky Mountain Charity cards and SmartBank presented a check for $15,000 to support the park’s critical needs. Also during the broadcast, Sugarland Cellars presented a $20,000 check to the organization, bringing the Gatlinburg winery’s cumulative donations to $100,000 in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.
Friends of the Smokies’ President Jim Hart added, “The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is a truly special occasion, made even more extraordinary by the generosity of our donors Wednesday night. We are humbled by their outpouring of support and we look forward to putting their donations to work in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”