History of the Annual Christmas Telethon

Longest Running Popular Homegrown Program
One of the most popular and certainly longest running programs on CKSO TV was the Annual Telethon staged on a Saturday evening about four weeks prior to Christmas.  The goal was to raise money to buy toys for children of families less fortunate.  The fund raiser event has a history which predates CKSO TV.  The year was 1949 and a group known as the "Members of the Sudbury Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartets" performed in the streets singing Christmas carols in front of various collection stands helping to raise money for the Salvation Army.  People would deposit their coins into 'Cheer Pots'.  The singing group was out to raise $500.

By 1951 the group had developed the "Barbershoppers' Christmas Toy Drive" with the aim of helping 300 children.  The original street performances had evolved to stage and radio shows turning such an event into a Christmas institution.

The toy drive had turned into a gala like event in 1952 making its way to the Capitol Theatre.  Local area talent came together to produce the first "All Star Program".  It was broadcast live over CHNO Radio and over 1,000 toys were donated!

The year 1953 was a crucial year for the annual fund raiser.  There had been 300 families and about 1,500 children in need.  Crunching numbers, the Barbershoppers were anticipating a short fall and unable to reach their goal.  However by the time of the approaching Christmas season, something new was in town and would prove to be just what was needed.  CKSO TV had signed on only some 35 days prior and its manager Wilf Woodill stepped up to the plate to help the cause.  The station offered airtime and production facilities for a 5 hour volunteer talent show to be broadcast live while simultaneously collecting funds for the drive.  In fact Queens Taxi that evening would drive to the pledger's location and pick up the money!  The total amount collected was $2,000, a significant amount of money in those years and quite a feat since there were only about 80 television sets in the area at the time.  The goal of $1,500 was well exceeded.  Noted Sudburian and Chair of the Barbershoppers Ernie Savard was quoted as saying, "We could raise more money in 1 night on television than you could during an exhaustive 6 weeks of fundraising on the street."  Joining Ernie, the original Barbershoppers included Walter Wilson, Sam Campbell, Cliff Lockyer, Lorne Scoville, Harry Lambert, Hap Bainard, Elmer Schieman, Art Goddard, Ken Barlow, Williard Evoy and Bill Caswell.  In 1953 the idea of a Christmas telethon was a new concept.  The success of that first and future telethon broadcasts provided incentive to other organizations across the country to seek cooperation from their own local TV stations in hopes of replicating such prosperity.

Progressing to television was not only keeping up with technological advancement, it was just natural.  The Annual Christmas Telethon became a tradition for generations to come.  CKSO TV and the Jaycee Club had taken over for the Barbershoppers in 1957 until 1966 when the station then partnered with the Lions Club.  Although the Lions Club would remain the official service club, CKSO TV's involvement came to an end following the 1979 broadcast.  By Christmas of 1980 Cambrian Broadcasting had divested itself of its TV holdings and MCTV took over the broadcasting of the annual telethon.

Proof of the need and of the success of this annual event was marked on December 5, 1998.  The station, which had become known as MCTV - CTV held a "Celebration of 50 years of Caring for the Kids at Christmas" with an unprecedented production.  A record $211,000 in Sudbury had been pledged throughout nine hours of live home town television.