Telethon: Those were days of our lives
In 1990 a mystery celebrity arrived in town via helicopter as Rexine Hawes discovers from the Chronicle archives for our Back In The Day series.
Telethons were held regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s as a televised 24 hour event and coined the phrase ‘‘thank you very much for your kind donation’’.
Telethons were hugely popular and well supported in the communities and the Matamata Chronicle documented the local efforts in each of its twice-weekly editions throughout the months of August and September 1990.
Perhaps all the excitement had something to do with secret celebrities Philip Leishman, as well as Mission Impossible and Days of Our Lives heartthrob Thaao Penghlis, arriving in Matamata by helicopter on September 1.
Their time in Matamata was spent at the Matamata Primary School, where cameras were set up to broadcast a live feed of the town’s activities to TVNZ’s channel one.
They got stuck in washing cars with the Matamata Baptist Church Youth Group, signing endless autographs and enjoying sausage sizzles.
Prior to the telethon weekend, throughout the months of August and September, the Chronicle team was busy reporting on at least two to three stories per edition on what Matamata was doing to help raise money for telethon. By the end of telethon, Matamata raised $15,000 of the total $4million raised throughout New Zealand.
Brian Parish headed up the Matamata fundraising efforts. A follow-up article reported Parish saying that by the end ‘‘I had absolutely had it, but it was all worth while’’.
Fundraisers and community events included a display of vehicles by the Matamata and Te Awamutu Hot Rod Club, $6 tickets for a hangi, and even Telethon sweatshirts sold by Kiwanis Club members.
Telethon seemed to get the whole district involved, as Te Aroha challenged Parish and the Matamata’s Business Association to a pancake derby. Teams of four were invited to enter, which included making, running with and eating pancakes.