The annual Graham Atkinson Give A Kid A Christmas program has been in operation in one form or another for nearly 30 years, growing from helping a single child to providing a Merry Christmas to hundreds of children and teens each year.
But 2020 will see a new event from the annual effort — a live telethon. Or perhaps more appropriately a Facebook-athon.
Hampered in its normal fundraising activities by public gathering restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Surry County Sheriff Steve Hiatt and others overseeing the Christmas project will be putting on a variety show telethon to raise money, streaming the production live on Facebook Monday, Nov. 30.
“We’ve been real limited on things we can do,” said Jeffrey Trenter, a Give A Kid A Christmas Foundation board member. “Normally there’s a Christmas play, other activities, fundraisers.”
This year, though, the volunteers putting on the effort have had to rely on word-of-mouth, media stories on the program, and people’s memories from helping in years past to raise money.
The program works with local schools and social service agencies to identify area children and youth who are in danger of receiving no, or few, Christmas presents because of financial difficulties in their homes. Atkinson, the former Surry County sheriff who started the program in 1991 when he was a young deputy working in the local schools, said he and the cadre of volunteers working with the program have set a goal to spend $125 per child this year, with the money split between clothing and necessities and items such as toys and games.
The foundation also supplies food boxes to area families.
While Atkinson said he does not set an overall annual goal, trusting that God will move people to donate whatever is needed, Trenter said it’s pretty easy to do the math and see how much is yet needed to help all those they want to help. He said, as of mid-week last week, the foundation had raised roughly $80,000, but with 820 kids on the list needing help this year, that leaves the group short of its $102,000 need.
“And that’s just for the kids,” he said, adding there are 320 families needing help with food. While he said Walmart provides the food boxes at far less than actual cost, the foundation still needs about $54 for each box.
Prior to Monday’s Facebook livestream event, Trenter said his company, Carport Central, will be holding a day-long fundraiser.
“We’re going to have a drive-through from 7 in the morning until 10 (a.m.), we’re serving coffee and donuts for anyone who comes through,” he said. “There’s no set price, we’re just asking people to come through, then donate whatever they can.”
Then from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., they firm will be selling $5 lunches that include a hot dog, chips and a drink. Afterward, there will be food trucks onsite, from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., selling cotton candy, popcorn, and candy apples, for $3 a piece.
“All of the proceeds from the day, 100% of the proceeds, are going to Give-A-Kid-A-Christmas,” he said.
Then, Trenter will head on over to Dobson, where he’ll help with the Facebook-athon.
Local minister Austin Caviness and former WXII television personality Cameron Kent will be hosting the streaming event, which will feature a number of performances by local individuals and groups.
Among those scheduled to appear are Chestnut Ridge, Dixie Bullin, Eric Marshall, Erica Latza, Mickey Heath, Rachel Gibson along with Sheriff Steve Hiatt and Johnathan Bledsoe.
The Facebook-athon can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/events/185814939752853/?active_tab=discussion Individuals interested can not only view the event there, they can go there in advance and invite other friends to the event.