By Dustin Luca
---- — To say last week’s Andover Youth Services Telethon was a success would be an understatement.
Held last Thursday and Friday at the high school’s Collins Center for the Performing Arts, the fundraising effort raised over $150,000. That included a $50,000 anonymous donation at the end of the first night, according to Andover Youth Foundation Chairwoman Diane Costagliola.
With $2 million raised for the youth center before the event, the telethon puts the foundation within $50,000 of what it needs to begin construction, Costagliola said.
When asked if she thought the telethon would raise that much money in two days, Costagliola said nobody within the organization thought the event would bring in nearly that much.
“I had people answering phones saying that they couldn’t believe how many $500, $1,000 donations people were making,” she said. “Kids were pooling their money together to make a donation.”
For many, the telethon served as a coming together of the community, including current Andover citizens and businesses, and others who returned to town for the event to support AYS.
“When I was in middle school, I went on a lot of AYS-sponsored trips. I really loved them and felt like they had a large impact on my life growing up,” said 20-year-old Casey McQuillen, a Berklee College of Music sophomore. “I’ve been working with AYS for a while now. They called me up and asked if I would do another show, and I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Four twentysomethings who originally met at the high school came together to perform a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.”
“For 19 years, Bill [Fahey, AYS director] has been trying to build this thing,” said 24-year-old Eric Ramsdell, who played guitar for the band.
Bassist Will Colbe, 25, said he took part in AYS programming throughout middle school and high school, and that “it was really great to give back to these guys because of what they do for the community.”
They were joined by 25-year-old Paul Spano on drums and 23-year-old Alura Mireault on vocals.
Ayoung soloist, 12-year-old Kevin Choi, performed Adele’s “Skyfall” on piano, and he followed it with Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” on guitar.
His father was his inspiration for performing live, but “I want people to have this youth center,” he said after his performance.
Businesses also got in on the fun. Whether it was by donating items and packages for the telethon’s bidding contests or providing cash through massive, facsimiles of checks on stage, the town’s companies were represented at the telethon.
Orange Leaf, on Park Street, presented a check for $3,500 during the event, presented as a thank you to Andover youth for their patronage, according to store general manager Kurtis Tanguay.
“These kids are always in our store. We saw an opportunity to give back to the kids,” he said.
The recently opened Century Bank on Essex Street made a $10,000 donation on the first night of the event.
Salon Forza, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary in town, brought a $900 package to the bidding floor, which included an $800 salon treatment for the winning bidder and five friends and a $100 gift certificate to Andolini’s Italian Restaurant on Essex Street.
“The first time I saw the community come together was the voting for the youth center,” said Jennifer Traverso, Salon Forza owner. “When you have something you can support, it will grow. I wish I had done something so empowering when I was a child.”
Andover schools staff also got in on the fun. As the second night went on, a trio of Andover coaches, including football Coach E J Perry, agreed to shave their heads if donations reached a certain level, Perry said.
With $150,000 tallied up at the end, Perry’s head was shaved by a couple of his players.
“Everything worked out for everybody,” he said. “I got a haircut... Some people say I look younger, so that’s a good thing.”
The night wasn’t without issue, however, as a phone volunteer fell off the back of the telethon’s stage late into night one, live on local-access TV. The individual was treated at the scene and found to be OK while the telethon continued elsewhere on stage.
NEXT STEPS FOR FOUNDATION
With just under $50,000 to go to reach the foundation’s $2.2 million goal, Costagliola said it won’t take much to complete the Cormier Family Youth Center’s fundraising.
“We’re pretty close now. We actually have a big fundraiser in April with Whole Foods [Supermarket on Railroad Street],” Costagliola said. “I really feel like, even without getting another single donation from a grant or from a person, we’ll be able to meet our goal with that fundraiser.”
The project is slated for an August groundbreaking. The money is due when the contracts for the work are awarded, and Costagliola said the group is slated to get there in time.
“We know it’s absolutely certain we’ll have the money when the town needs for us to have it,” she said.
A warrant article was slated to come to Annual Town Meeting in May that would have removed the size of the building from the 2011 Special Town Meeting vote approving the project. It would have been a requirement for the project to move forward, officials said previously.
But Andover’s bond counsel has determined the article was unnecessary after recent changes to the building’s plan kept it close enough to the originally proposed size of around 20,000 square feet, according to Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski.
With that article removed, only one article related to the youth center will come to Annual Town Meeting. It will ask voters to shift the footprint of the building 35 feet to the north due to a wetlands issue.