By Brent McDaniel
Friends of the Smokies raised $202,351 through its 21st annual “Friends Across the Mountains” telethon thanks to hundreds of callers, online donations and help from sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J and Tennessee State Bank. Since 1995, Friends of the Smokies’ telethons have raised more than $3.2 million in support of America’s most-visited national park. The “Friends Across the Mountains” telethon aired on WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn. and WLOS in Asheville, NC.
“It was heartwarming to see the support pledged by so many individuals during Friends of the Smokies’ telethon. Their gifts will have a lasting impact on the Smokies and we are truly thankful,” said Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
During the broadcast, Sugarland Cellars presented a $20,000 check to the organization. Since 2012, the Gatlinburg winery has offered four limited edition varietals with custom labels created by renowned artist Robert A. Tino. Each bottle sold generates a $5 donation to Friends of the Smokies.
Tennessee State Bank also presented Friends of the Smokies with a $15,860 check for proceeds from the bank’s Smoky Mountain Charity cards. Tennessee State Bank customers can carry the debit and credit cards featuring artwork of the Great Smoky Mountains by Robert A. Tino for a $10 annual fee, 100% of which supports Friends of the Smokies.
“For 21 years, our friends on both sides of the mountains have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to share their love of the Smokies. Thank you to our friends in Tennessee, North Carolina, and all over the country for their enthusiastic and loyal support,” said Friends of the Smokies founding board member and president emeritus, Justice Gary Wade.
Telethon donations can still be made online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org/donate to help fund more than $800,000 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.