This year was my first Teletón. Seems strange, considering I’ve spent a combined total of 30 months of my life in Chile. But since I studied abroad first semester, I missed it then, and Teletóns don’t happen during Presidential election years (aka 2009) so I missed it last year too.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What is the Teletón? It’s a phoneathon fundraiser that takes place every December (except Presidential election years). It lasts for a continuous 27 hours to raise money for Fundación Teletón rehabilitation centers throughout Chile for children with developmental disabilities. It was started in 1978 by Don Francisco, aka Mario Kreutzberger, a TV personality who hosts Sábado Gigante, a variety show that is well known throughout Latin America.
During the 27 hour transmission, all the major network TV channels in Chile transmit the show. It’s a combination of entertainment (Ricky Martin, Faith No More, Americo, etc performed this year), testimonies from children who are recipients of the rehabilitation centers’ services, the presentation of donations and advertisements from the companies that sponsored the Teletón.
So now, my impressions. First of all, I think this is a great cause. This year, the Teletón raised over US $35 million for the construction of and continued functioning of rehabilitation centers throughout Chile. There is no doubt that these children and their families benefit enormously from this service. Also, I think this event definitely brings Chileans together in solidarity with a great cause, and after the year Chile has had, this is definitely a positive thing.
There were two things that rubbed me the wrong way. The first being that it kind of felt like a 27 hour advertisement for the companies that sponsored the Teletón. The second was that I didn’t like the constant scolding by Don Francisco and the emcees about the lack of funds flowing through. At the beginning, when they called into various banks throughout the country, the banks would report how much they had earned so far compared with last year. In most cases, it was lower, and the emcees would act disappointed and call on the people of that region to get to the bank to donate. However, in the end, they surpassed their goal of $16 billion pesos and change, so I’m not sure all the scolding was really necessary.
So there you have it, Teletón. Oh, and I have to say that I still have this little ditty stuck in my head (it’s the number of the bank account, in case you were wondering).