In the wake of the Hurricane Harvey disaster, ABC 7 partnered with the American Red Cross to host a telethon and raise money for the relief effort. During the telethon on Thursday, August 31, people showed up with an overwhelming amount of support.
Harvey was a category 4 hurricane when it hit Texas on August 25. Texas experienced record-breaking rainfall; the storm along with the subsequent flooding have so far resulted in more than 70 deaths.
Alicia Morris is a volunteer specialist with the American Red Cross and this is her fourth telethon with the organization. “This is above and beyond what we could have imagined… we’ve had an overabundance of people wanting to step in and help and the calls have been coming in since 4:30 this morning.”
So many people showed up to work the phones, that volunteers waited on standby. By the end of the in-studio telethon at 10:35 p.m., there was more than $4 million in donations; that is four times more than what’s been raised in previous Red Cross telethons.
Morris said people have been inspired to help because of “the nature of the disaster. People are seriously affected by the hurricane and the coming events… people in Dallas and now Louisiana need our help.”
Julie Galiotto was one of the volunteers answering phones. She and a coworker came to volunteer, “we jumped at the chance to support the organization and the relief efforts… I believe in the mission and the work that they do.” Another volunteer, Ed McKeown, said, “I’m really here as a volunteer because I want to help and I’m here to help… it’s just another way to contribute. They’re our brothers and sisters down there.”
Even celebrities and local politicians volunteered, such as Rahm Emanuel and Diana Rauner. Local celebrity chef Stephanie Izard with Girl and the Goat answered phones for the afternoon, “Everyone says, ‘I wish I could give more,’ but just anything helps. Whatever you can give… There was one woman who had called and said I’m sorry I can only give $20.”
All-Star athlete Bo Jackson also stopped by. When Tracy Butler invited him, he changed his schedule so he could be there, “this is my way of giving back and helping these victims.”
With all the work already done, Texas is still focused on recovery. Flood levels have yet to subside and people continue flocking to shelters. Morris said of the current situation, “I have family in Texas, luckily they’re way far out but they’re seeing the devastation. I hope this response continues because this is going to be a long recovery period.”
Galiotto sends her help and good wishes to the victims, “I hope that they never have to experience this again. And I am happy that the American Red Cross is there to help.”
The telethon was part of the Walt Disney Company’s larger Day of Giving event in which the company raised money and awareness across it’s various television programs and platforms. In total, Disney raised more than $15 million for the Red Cross. The mouse himself even donated $1 million.
Written By: Eleanor Lyons & Laila Orazova, American Red Cross Communications Intern