By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — The first night of Andover Youth Services’ Annual Telethon went off with a bang — a $50,000 bang, in fact.
With the fundraising effort still going on after its scheduled conclusion for night one, the event had raised nearly $90,000, with calls still coming in nearing press deadline. The total amount raised saw a huge boost just after 10 p.m. with an anonymous $50,000 donation.
All of the money raised by the telethon, which continues for a second and final night tonight, benefits the Cormier Family Youth Center. Andover Youth Foundation, charged with raising $2.2 million for the project before the town provides its $2 million share of the project’s cost, was $200,000 shy of its goal before last night. That amount is contingent on the project being rephased through an annual Town Meeting warrant article in May.
With nearly half of that target knocked down by the end of night one, foundation Chairwoman Diane Costagliola said the group had “exceeded our expectations at this point. We’re looking forward to tomorrow night to see how high we can go.”
Speaking about the anonymous donation, Costagliola said it “is a tremendous endorsement of the support we have in the community to build a youth center.”
Bill Fahey, Andover Youth Services director, said that the group has “done seven telethons, and we have never been at this level” in a single night.
The event’s first night also featured a number of performing acts and donation presentations, including a $10,000 pledge from Elm Street-based Century Bank and $3,500 from Orange Leaf on Park Street.
“This is a great community, and they do a lot for the kids,” Kurtis Tangway, Orange Leaf general manager, said. “These kids are always in our store. We saw an opportunity to give back to the kids.”
For several others, the telethon was a chance to give back for their use of Youth Services programming growing up. Some pledged their support in the form of a challenge: “Do X, and I’ll donate Y.”
Ommel Bonilla, a 16-year-old member of the Andover High School football team and AYS kid going back to when he was 8, answered a challenge from friend Andrew DeLoury, 18 and also an AHS athlete. He was challenged to dance on stage without a shirt on in honor of a $200 cash donation.
When asked why he wanted to donate, DeLoury laughed and said, “I had the money, and [Ommel] said he would do it.”
Those watching the event live were also witness to a brief interruption on-stage in the final hour of the event, when a phone volunteer fell off the back of one of the stage’s seating platforms. That person was cleared by paramedics at the scene while the telethon continued uninterrupted.
The second night will run tonight starting at 7 p.m. To donate, call 978-470-0698 or 978-470-1847. Watch it live on Andover Access TV — Comcast Channel 8 or Verizon channel 47 — or stream it live on AndoverTV.org.