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A helping of fun

Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass. — Holly Camero Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

Dec. 06--There's no denying a lot of work goes into preparing for the annual Beacon Santa Telethon, but for this year's lead hosts and tech crew captains, it's also a lot of fun.

The fact that they are helping others is an added bonus.

Run by WAVM, Maynard's student-run radio and television station, the telethon begins at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 and runs until noon Dec. 10.

For tech crew captain Justin Wilkins, the word that comes to mind when describing the telethon is "gratifying."

"You're having fun with your friends and doing something that you love to do but you're also helping out people in need as well and that's the whole reason we do it. It's nice to know that I'm making someone's Christmas better just by coming up here and working a camera for a few hours," he said.

Helping others is never far from their minds.

Tech crew captain Michael Dao adds that while it's fun, "the fact that we are helping other people out is amazing."

Justin and Michael are joined by fellow tech crew captains Nora McCarthy and Katie Wilkins, all seniors. They are led by the grand master -- Nick Reilly, a high school junior. In all, there are 28 tech crew members.

This is not their first telethon, but still, they have been practicing several hours a week, honing their skills on the cameras and in the control room.

They hope for the best but prepare for the worst, because something goes wrong every year.

Last year, the WiFi signal cut out, and another year the cameras overheated. While there is no way to predict every situation, practice helps crew members stay calm when something does go wrong and come up with solutions, said Nora.

"The best possible skill that you can learn while you're on tech crew is how to trouble shoot," said Nora.

'More than you can ask for'

Leading a team of seven hosts, Grace Dineen and Justin Hines, co-head hosts, are charged with filling the air space and have been scheduling performers, writing skits and gathering auction items from neighboring towns, since the last week of September.

Grace's first stint at the telethon was as an elf holding up auction items in front of the camera. She was in third grade, following in her older sister's footsteps, who was involved in WAVM and the telethon. Now a senior, Grace is trying to make the most of her last telethon.

"It's bittersweet honestly, because there is so much stress leading up to it, but it's going to be so sad. I don't know what I'm going to do next Christmas," Grace said.

Justin Hines has also been involved in the telethon for about seven years, noting his mother is a chaperone.

"It's part of us. So it's a great thing to do because we love it and it helps other people -- which is more than you can ask for," he said.

"It means the world to me," Grace said. "I don't remember my life without it. ... it's a feeling that this is literally so much good and we're having so much fun doing it."

Katie echoed that sentiment, noting that while they are learning a skill, they get to be part of a two-night sleepover with friends and are also helping others.

"There's no negative part of it," she said. "You get the feeling that you're making someone's Christmas better."

Looking ahead

The telethon has been filled with memories for the seniors, who are trying not to think about the fact that even though they plan to return next year, it just won't be the same.

It's the simple things that stand out.

"Last year we packed a little Honda full of seven people and just drove around and got a ton of auction items," said Grace.

Nora's favorite memory dates back to her freshman year and a moment she shared with her older brother, then a senior and a tech crew captain, when she stayed up late just "sitting around singing and laughing."

"That's one of the things I'll never forget," she said.

For triplets Katie and Justin Wilkins, eating ice cream in the cafeteria at 2 a.m. during last year's telethon with their friends while everyone else was asleep is something they will always cherish.

"There is always some funny or silly [memories] that come to mind," Nick added.

The seniors vow to return next year.

Justin Wilkins said past members of WAVM work the cameras during the finale so the entire tech crew can be on the air when the fundraising total is revealed.

"It's like nothing you'll ever do anywhere else in life," said Nora. "Sometimes you almost forget that this is a charity event because we are having so much fun. Then you realize at noon on Sunday when they hold up the grand total -- we did that. Us being up here and dedicating our time made that happen. And I think we're really privileged to have this opportunity."

What the crew members are saying

Hosts

Senior Emma Jacques

FIRST TELETHON 2013; age 14

FAVORITE MEMORY dressing up as Santa and going downtown.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE It is my last year to participate and I want to make it the best year.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT working hard to make something big and meaningful, and having fun, while raising money for others.

Junior Meredith Cormier

FIRST TELETHON 2014; age 14

FAVORITE MEMORY my first telethon when I was with all my friends going around downtown collecting donations in costume and just having so much fun while doing so much good.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE ever since I was younger I always saw all the hard work and fun all the students and adults had during the telethon and always wanted to be a part of something that important.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT WAVM means family and charity. Charity for the obvious reason of donating your time and commitment to something great that does so much good to so may people. Family because I've made so many lifelong friends from WAVM that I can't imagine my life without.

Junior Charlie Neuhauser

FIRST TELETHON I was in ninth grade; I was 14

FAVORITE MEMORY cramming an ungodly number of people in the radio booth.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE I've always wanted to be a telethon host, and this year I finally got the opportunity.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT [having] a great time with good people for a great cause.

Junior Molly McPhail

FIRST TELETHON 2014; 13 years old

FAVORITE MEMORY when I was on phone duty and picked up the phone in a different accent each time.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE I have enjoyed all of the previous years so much and can't imagine the holiday season without it anymore.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT hard work with friends and family for a great cause, all the while having so much fun.

Junior Lucas Pepin

FIRST TELETHON I was in eighth grade, age 13

FAVORITE MEMORY singing with one of my best friends, Karima, on live radio and singing and jamming in the band room with all my friends.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE I want to give back to families in need. I chose to apply for the host position because I wanted to be someone that people could look up to as a role model.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT working hard with all my friends to raise money and help people while having fun at the same time.

Senior Julia Synan

FIRST TELETHON 2015. I was a sophomore.

FAVORITE MEMORY when I had to go downtown and dress up as a Christmas character and get donations.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE it's always so much fun to raise money with my friends and always making great memories while doing great things. Whenever I was little I would always watch the telethon and it was my dream to participate in it.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT raising money for a good cause while putting in a lot of hard work and making memories.

Senior Maddie Bottasso

FIRST TELETHON 2015; I was a sophomore

FAVORITE MEMORY having late night radio shows and collecting donations downtown in elf and Santa costumes.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE it's always a lot of fun and ever since I was little I've watched the telethon on TV and wanted to be one of the people on it.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT lots of hard work paying off to build something great and help so many people.

Tech crew

Senior Madelyn Candela, captain

FIRST TELETHON 2012; I was 12

FAVORITE MEMORY when Grace got locked in a trash can.

I AM VOLUNTEERING BECAUSE it has been a privilege for me to be able to participate in such a unique event over my time in Maynard. Nowhere else has anything come close to what we're able to do here and it is one of the best opportunities I've had thus far. Also, since this is my last year it serves as somewhat of a goodbye.

FOR ME THE TELETHON IS ABOUT If we're being honest, the telethon has always meant super strenuous nights of prep and no sleep. However, it has become one of the most meaningful and enjoyable weekends of my year being able to see how far my work goes in the community.

___

(c)2017 Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

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