AP NEWS

Dracut Always Dialed in for Scholarship Donors

March 19, 2019
Band director Zachary Cooper, left, congratulates Olivia Richardson after a performance by the brass group from the Richardson Middle School. Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

DRACUT -- Last-minute preparations are underway for the 36th annual Dollars for Scholars telethon sponsored by the Dracut Scholarship Foundation.

The three-day event kicks off Wednesday and ends on Friday at Dracut High School.

It is the largest fundraiser of the year for the scholarship foundation.

The foundation has a fundraising goal of $135,000 for this year’s telethon after raising $140,711 in 2018 when the goal was $125,000. The telethon has topped its goal for the last several years.

In 2018, the foundation awarded 59 scholarships to Dracut seniors. The average scholarship was $2,000 and the largest was $3,500, according to Karen Vergakes, president of the foundation’s board. The scholarships are awarded based on academic performance and participation in school and community events.

The foundation is dedicating this year’s telethon to two individuals who played important roles in its history.

Harvey Gagnon, who died earlier this month, was one of the organization’s founding members in 1964 and served on its board for many years.

Donna Brody, who died in October, was a 20-year board member, president of the board in 2016-2017 and a member of the School Committee.

The foundation raised funds door-to-door when Gagnon began it. The telethon started in 1984 when cable television and Dracut Access Television were in their infancy.

In its first year, the telethon had a goal of $15,000 and raised $18,000.

“It’s snowballed since then,” says Gary Meuse who is a foundation board member and who has managed all technical aspects of the telethon for every one of its 36 years.

Getting everything set up for the three-day event is “quite complex,” according to Meuse. But by now, he says it’s a “well-oiled machine.”

He adds, “We try not to make a lot of changes from year-to-year.”

Last year, however, they bought several high definition (HD) cameras. They couldn’t televise in HD in 2018, but this year they can, whether viewers are tuned into local access stations 8 and 22 or streaming it online from DATV. According to Meuse, people from around the country stream the production.

The studio at Dracut High School is the “heart of the operation,” according to Meuse. The auction board and items are displayed there. People also walk into the studio to make in-person donations. The telethon also features various entertainment acts. These are televised from the music room and the auditorium.

Auction highlights this year include a $10,000 raffle that will be drawn on Friday night. Tickets to professional sports games, many with limousine included, restaurant gift cards, a landscaping service, and bowling for six are also among the auction items.

Both Vergakos and Meuse are grateful for the teams who help them. Vergakos especially thanks the high school students who help out and Meuse thanks the more than 20 volunteers working on the production behind the scenes.

The first auction items go up for bid at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The telethon runs from 6:30 to 9:30 each night. The telethon number is new this year: 978-957-9700.