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Telethon raises $210,000 towards new radio system in Smokies

KODAK, TN – Friends of the Smokies collected $210,525 in donations Wednesday during its 24th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon from hundreds of callers, online donations, and support from sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J, and SmartBank.

friends of smokies telethon
Jason Boyer, Grace Friar, and Russell Biven - Image courtesy of Friends of the Smokies

Since 1995, Friends of the Smokies’ telethons have raised more than $3.9 million in support of America’s most-visited national park. The telethon was broadcast live Wednesday night on WBIR in Knoxville, TN, WLOS in Asheville, NC, and on Facebook.

“This community has always come together to meet the needs of the national park in their own backyard and this night was no exception,” said Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), whose wife and daughter volunteered during the broadcast. “Our friends and neighbors on both sides of the mountains pledged their support – even my daughter’s high school teacher called in to make a donation. We are so thankful to have Friends of the Smokies in our corner.”

Donations made Wednesday night will support the organization’s 25th Anniversary Signature Project to upgrade the park’s emergency radio systems. The $2.5 million effort will leverage $1.25 million in federal funds and grants to match every donation made to Friends of the Smokies. The state-of-the-art radio upgrades will allow rangers to respond more quickly and effectively to emergency situations in the park, keep more than 11 million annual visitors safe, and communicate with emergency services in surrounding communities. In addition to this capital campaign project, Friends of the Smokies will provide more than $1.2 million in annual support to the national park.

During Wednesday’s program, SmartBank presented a check for $15,000 and Sugarland Cellars presented a $16,000 check to support the fundraising efforts. Justice Gary Wade, Friends of the Smokies’ founding board chair and dean of Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law, pledged $5,000 on behalf of the school during the broadcast.

Friends of the Smokies’ president Jim Hart thanked the generous donors who called and donated online, “To have a record-breaking fundraiser during our 25th anniversary is truly a testament to the generosity of this community. We are so grateful for the tremendous support as we close in on our $2.5 million goal.”

Matching telethon donations can still be made online at or by calling the TN office of Friends of the Smokies at 800-845-5665 or the NC office at 828-452- 0720.

Friends of the Smokies is an official nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has raised $62 million to support critical park programs and maintain the Smokies as a crown jewel of the National Park Service. Discover and donate at

Published August 17, 2018

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