Gray Television’s four stations serving parts of Kentucky teamed up with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team and raised more than $1 million for Haiti earthquake relief in a foru and a half hour telethon. The effort even drew praise from President Barack Obama.
With the help of the four stations and with less than 48 hours to plan and execute it, the basketball team raised more than a million dollars during the “Hoops for Haiti” fundraising telethon on January 17. Produced and aired by Gray’s WKYT-TV Lexington, KY, the telethon also aired on three additional Gray television stations: WYMT-TV Hazard, KY; WBKO-TV Bowling Green, KY; and WSAZ-TV Huntington, WV.
“The people and the fans of Kentucky, this state of Kentucky and the people all over this nation called in. I don’t know what to say. It’s emotional. We just spent a day and all you people did it. I just want to thank you. Thank you, Kentucky,” team head coach John Calipari said on the telethon.
During the four-and-a-half hour broadcast, Coach Calipari and WKYT-TV’s on-air staff talked with other University of Kentucky coaches, current and former players, local and national celebrities, the collegiate coaching community, and local and national business leaders. With current Kentucky basketball players answering phones, callers donated more than $501,000. With matching funds and auctions, the “Hoops for Haiti” effort raised more than $1,300,000.
Celebrities like actress Ashley Judd, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and country star Taylor Swift participated by volunteering to auction various items on eBay. The bid for a dinner for six at Coach Calipari’s home with Judd – an avid Wildcat fan — went for $98,100.
“This is not about me or my team or the university. This is everybody. The people answering phones, the people from WKYT-TV who offered their time, all you guys. It’s just a great, great thing,” Calipari said.
To express his admiration and thanks for the “Hoops for Haiti” telethon, President Obama personally called Coach Calipari and the Kentucky basketball team on January 26. “I just want to let you guys know that I am very, very proud of what you guys did. It shows a lot of character, and I hope that carries over,” the President told the team.