News Article Details

Annual United Cerebral Palsy telethon fundraiser set for this weekend

The Anniston Star - 8/3/2018

Aug. 02--At half-a-year-old, Zane Hicks still struggled with the most basic of activities.

The Weaver boy's muscles were so weak that he couldn't sit up or even lift his head. He refused to eat and required a feeding tube.

Then Zane's mother, Jannette Hicks, enrolled him in a program at United Cerebral Palsy of East Central Alabama in Anniston.

"They worked with him so much with physical therapy and now he's walking and almost running ... the doctors said he probably wouldn't start walking until he was 5," Hicks said of Zane, who turns 3 years old today. "He used to be solely tube fed and now he only eats with his mouth ... he loves to eat now."

Hicks and her son are two of the hundreds of people who benefit every year from the local chapter of United Cerebral Palsy, which is holding its 60th annual telethon fundraiser Saturday and Sunday. The fundraiser accounts for about 30 percent of the nonprofit's annual budget, used to support programs for children and adults with disabilities.

"About 93 cents of every dollar we raise goes directly back to programs like therapy services, speech classes and occupational therapy for children and adults," said Lisa Spurling, director of operations at United Cerebral Palsy.

The telethon will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Anniston Meeting Center. The event, featuring music and other entertainment, will be televised live on Cable One channel 69 and WEAC TV 24. The event will also be live-streamed online at

Spurling said the event is critical to the vitality of the nonprofit's programs. The event typically raises between $360,000 and $375,000 each year.

"We were able to bring 41 more kids into the program last year who were on the waiting list because the telethon raised more money," Spurling said.

Thursday afternoon, a teacher worked with 17-month-old Crimson Heard of Calhoun County, helping her and a group of other 1-year-olds learn to feed themselves.

"She was tube-fed but after working with a therapist, she's now eating with a spoon," Spurling said. "That's the kind of thing we do here every day."

Nearby, Jordan Marsh, 24, of Alexandria, was participating in an adult group program. Marsh has been in the program about two weeks and loved it, including painting pictures for the upcoming telethon.

"I just like to make my friends laugh and talk to other people and get to know them," Marsh said.

In addition to the telethon to solicit donations, UCP will have other volunteers raising money across its five-county service area, including Calhoun, Cleburne, Talladega, Randolph and Clay counties.

Combined with those in the telethon, 1,074 people have volunteered to help raise money for the UCP this year.

"We've got church groups, civic groups and family members, they take shifts collecting donations and doing roadblocks," Spurling said.

Spurling added that area schools' coaches would have players, cheerleaders and other supporters of their programs help raise money.

Last year, UCP served 970 people, including the family members of the children and adults in the programs.

"If you don't serve the family as a whole, you don't really meet their needs," Spurling said.

To that end, UCP also offers daycare services that are free three days a week to parents. The other two days are offered at discounted rates compared to private daycare centers, Spurling said.

Hicks said having the UCP has helped her and her husband immensely.

"They have educated us on what we can do to help him ... I didn't know anything about what I could do at home to help my child," Hicks said. "I honestly don't know what I'd do without them ... I'd just be stressed out and worried."

UCP still has spots open for volunteers to help with fundraising this weekend. To volunteer, call Lisa Spurling at 256-237-8203.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.


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