The National Council of Voluntary Organisations’ radio/telethon on Saturday night raised $130,328 in donations or pledges to benefit the group’s children-oriented community services.
That total exceeded the stated goal of $125,000.
Some contributors chose to drive to the Prospect Playhouse, the site from which the five-hour programme was broadcast. Volunteers were there to accept cash or cheques and issue receipts. Many more people chose to phone in as they watched Cayman 27 or listened to Radio Cayman. Again, volunteers were on hand to take their calls and pledges.
Veteran Olive Miller could not help but compare 7 November 2009 with NCVO’s first ‘thon’ on Monday, 3 December 1979.
Mrs. Miller has been part of every fund-raising broadcast event except one — when a broken hip prevented her physical participation, but not her moral support.
Coincidentally, that first effort also exceeded its stated goal by $5,000. While the announced target was $5,000, the Caymanian Compass subsequently reported that total pledged was $10,767.75.
Mrs. Miller reflected that only Radio Cayman was involved in the beginning and the programme aired from the studio behind the Government Administration Building.
‘The greatest difference was that we had volunteer drivers in the districts go to people’s homes and pick up pledges as they were phoned in. We didn’t have street signs or house numbers in those days, so half the programme was announcing the pledges and then clarifying directions. Some were rather strange – ‘the block house on the corner with the breadfruit tree…”
In 1979, the organisation was known as the National Council of Social Services or NCSS. The name was later changed to distinguish it from the government department of social services.
In the early radiothon years, NCSS chairman Richard Arch started a feature of historical questions. People who phoned in the correct answer and made a pledge were awarded prizes. This year, Mrs. Miller noted, donors were still receiving prizes, but they were by random draw.
Another difference was in the entertainment. That first year, ‘the studio crew would sing songs and people would phone in jokes’. The crew included Mrs. Miller, Mr. Arch, Loxley Banks and others, including the late Doren Miller and Evelyn Andresen.
The Compass reported other features. Mr. Banks, then Deputy Director of Broadcasting, played radio tapes from significant news events of the previous 40 years. Children from NCSS day care centres attended the studio to sing and William Wood Sr. came in for an interview.
In recent years, more and more of Cayman’s musicians have come on board with full band setups. Media personalities from a variety of stations have provided their time and talent.
The 1979 programme was scheduled to run from 8.30pm until 10pm. However, that timeslot was extended several times until 11.40pm because pledges kept coming in.
This year, the broadcast fit smoothly into its scheduled 7pm to midnight. Detailed production cues let performers, camera operators and sound technicians know who should be where and when.
Technological advances have influenced other aspects of the fund raiser. The thermometer device used to show fund increases typically involves a red arrow physically moved up a column of numbers.
This year, volunteer Ruud van der Pluijm developed a computer generated image that was displayed on a giant backdrop screen. As contributions were announced throughout the evening, he was able to display the sum with the touch of a few buttons.