Kentucky's "Big Blue Nation Cares" telethon helped raise $500,000 for the American Red Cross relief effort for those affected by Superstorm Sandy in the northeast.
The telethon, which featured UK coach John Calipari and the Wildcats serving as hosts, aired on WKYT-TV and CWKYT in Lexington on Wednesday night.
"You think about it, our state is one of the poorest states," Calipari said. "... (But) word got out through the social media and all other stuff, and people basically gave over $200,000. Then we match it and then you do the auction, and all of a sudden you look around and say, ‘My goodness we raised a million dollars.' And it wasn't an all-day auction.
"I just can't thank the people in this state enough for how they give money and of their time. I say a suffering man steps out and does something for somebody else, that means something to me."
"We had an amazing night of support for the important work of the American Red Cross," said Bluegrass Region of the American Red Cross CEO Terry Burkhart. "We are so thankful to Coach Calipari, WKYT, and all the donors for stepping up to help those affected by this terrible disaster."
All funds donated during the telethon were matched by a collection of UK trustees and businesses. The efforts also got a big boost from Papa John's CEO John Schnatter, who pledged $1 from every pizza sold nationally on Nov. 7 to the relief effort. He estimated the final tally from that donation would be close to $400,000.
"When you consider the money raised on the phones, on-line, through the auction, and with Papa John's contributions we hope to surpass $1 million," Burkhart said.
Thousands of people have spent the night in hundreds of Red Cross shelters since the storm began its onslaught on the country. The Red Cross has already served more than 3.2 million meals and snacks and mobilized more than 5,800 disaster workers and almost 300 emergency vehicles have been deployed.
Individuals or organizations still wishing to donate to Big Blue Nation Cares can visit wkyt.com or redcrosslexky.org.