Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

December 6, 2013

'The heart of Kokomo'

We Care telethon has become cornerstone of community

(Continued)

Since 1973, We Care has raised $14.01 million for the Kokomo region.

It doesn’t happen without an army of volunteers, though. More than 700 people from every walk of life give their time to keep the telethon running smoothly.

There are homemakers, secretaries, business owners, elected officials, factory workers and the unemployed.

Some are second and third generation volunteers. Their grandparents started helping out more than 20 years ago, Varnell said.

And it’s not easy work. People lose sleep and disrupt their weekend to do it.

Varnell coordinates the phone operators. Twelve people man the phones in six-hour shifts. Varnell’s shift is just a little longer.

“I leave for maybe four hours during the weekend,” she said. “I have slept in the building under a desk before.”

The WWKI offices are like a small city, bustling with activity all weekend. The garage attached to the building is transformed into the makeshift studio you see on television, Varnell said.

As crazy as it all is, the volunteers love it, she said. It’s become a part of their tradition. Other families have their own traditions. Some gather at one family member’s house to watch the telethon and bid on items they will give away as Christmas gifts.

That’s what We Care is all about, she said.

“We Care is a cornerstone of the community,” she said. “It’s family, the heart of Kokomo.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.

The We Care telethon starts at 6 p.m. tonight and runs for 48 hours straight until 6 p.m. Sunday. You can watch it on Comcast channel 82 or online at wwki.com.

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