Telethon (image - Michael Wilson at The West Australian)

Telethon 2022 – Children’s fundraiser soars to record-breaking $71.4 million raised over special weekend

The final tally for Telethon 2022 has been revealed, with West Australians donating a record-breaking $71.4m.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has hailed Telethon as “quite extraordinary”, with WA’s fundraising icon smashing through the $500 million donation mark in its 55th year on Sunday night.

With a new record tally of $71,356,721 Telethon’s annual weekend finished with a blaze of glory — and a cache of surprises for Little Stars, Ari, Emily and Leo — at a packed-out RAC Arena. The momentum had built strongly earlier in the day when celebrity chef Manu Feildel led Telethon’s traditional conga line through the phone room as the all-time tally rolled through $475 million before midday.

Mr Albanese, who committed $6 million from the Federal Government, marvelled at WA’s enduring spirit of wanting to help families in need.

“That is something that I think is characteristic of this event …. people are here to help others and that is a good thing,” Mr Albanese said.

“It’s a good thing for those who we help, but it’s also good when we help because it makes us feel better about ourselves and who we are. This Telethon is a great example and you should be very proud as a West Australian community.”

Premier Mark McGowan also revealed a record State Government contribution of $11 million, up from $10 million last year.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting and Roy Hill also added to the late record-breaking surge, with a combined commitment of $3 million. It came after Hancock Prospecting decided on Saturday to withdraw its sponsorship offer of $15 million to Netball Australia following player disquiet over the deal despite her philanthropy helping many other sports.

Seven West Media boss Kerry Stokes said former Channel 7 executive Brian Treasure deserved great credit for his “creative genius” that laid the foundations for the Telethon juggernaut.

He said he continued to be extremely proud of West Australians for their commitment to giving and said decisions by former prime minster Kevin Rudd and Premier Mark McGowan to make significant annual Telethon donations had become key components of the fundraising mission.

“It’s had several lives and I’m pretty blown away, actually,” Mr Stokes said.

He said the most important fundraising staple was still the community’s generosity.

“It only works from the bottom up and I keep saying to people, the most important donation we get is the $5 pocket money,” he said.

“The kids’ pocket money is what this was built on, lose that and we lose everything else. We’ve got a whole new generation of kids coming through who are going to be Telethon kids.”

Telethon chairman Richard Goyder said the weekend brought perspective on WA’s place in a global society.

“We live in the most amazing place, in a world that’s got its challenges and its troubles at the moment,” Mr Goyder said.

“For most of us, we enjoy a standard of living and a lifestyle that most people can only aspire to. But making our kids healthier and looking after those families who really need our help makes us as a community stronger.

“Telethon does amazing things.”

Mr Goyder said WA’s spirit of giving was poignantly described in a call he received on Friday from a person who did not want to be identified, but donated $1 million.

“I was listening to the radio on the way home and there seemed to be a whole lot of bad things happening in the world,” Mr Goyder said on his way home from a breakfast with Mr Albanese.

“I got a phone call from someone and that person said, ‘Richard, I’ve been thinking about our contribution this week and we’re going to up it’. This person doesn’t want to be acknowledged and wants no personal acknowledgement.

“I said to that person, ‘Well, I’ve nearly run off the road with joy and happiness at what you’ve just done. I feel that the world is a better place because of the phone call you’ve just given me’.”

Mr Goyder also paid tribute to Mr Stokes, the man he described as the “father of Telethon”. Mr Albanese agreed, saying WA had been “hit by a rainbow” with Mr Stokes’ leadership.

WA burns specialist Professor Fiona Wood provided a snapshot of what the annual donation cavalcade really meant.

“We could talk all day about this,” Prof. Wood said.

“We do 3D printing of scans and we’re building a library around an iKnife where we can tell the chemistry as we’re cutting through. We’ve also got new therapies out there that we can see how we can un-scar the scar.

“There is also so much work going on with the brain and how we can use the power of the mind to improve the outcomes.”

At his fourth Telethon, Feildel said he continued to be amazed by the event as he chatted with Little Telethon star, Ari.

“I just can’t believe it’s been 55 years in a row and that’s quite incredible when you think about it,” Feildel said.

“I don’t think there is any other charity like it. I’ve got kids myself and now I realise how bloody lucky I am. Ari just keeps smiling regardless of the situation he is in and I wish my kids were here to see it.”

Ari’s father Zy Phillips said the Telethon experience had been a whirlwind for his son and their family.

“Honestly, having him running around smiling and enjoying himself is an amazing gift,” Mr Phillips said.

“We have a very easy measure of how Ari is because he smiles all the time. The size of the smile varies, but he’s a very happy kid and people see it and bounce off it. He’s loving the spotlight and he’s had a great time.”

The Telethon Ball at Crown Towers on Saturday night, which is considered to be the most prestigious fundraising night in the country, raised an incredible $8.8 million, mostly from WA’s corporate sector.

Story Attributed to: The West Australian

Images by: Sarah Steger, Michael Wilson and Ross Swanborough

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