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Plum High School telethon raises more than $38K for Make-A Wish

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
'She's my best friend,' said Elizabeth (Lizzy) Dodd, a Plum High School student, about her sister Katie Dodd at the school's annual Make a Wish Telethon broadcast on Friday, December 20.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Student volunteers at Plum High School's Make-A-Wish telethon relax between takes at the school's annual broadcast Friday, December 20. From the left are Chelsie Stewart, Alex Apel, Tia Barnett, Michaela Riston and Austin Dedert.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Elizabeth (Lizzy) Dodd, a Plum High School Make-A-Wish student greets Andrea Ballas, Make-A-Wish development coordinator at the school's annual telethon broadcast on Friday, December 20.

Lizzy Dodds grew up a short distance from Plum.

Dodds, 18, an East McKeesport native and 2013 graduate of East Allegheny High School, hadn't heard about the annual Make-A-Wish telethon at Plum High school each year just before Christmas break.

Dodds, a freshman at the Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce Campus in Monroeville, this year is well aware of the telethon. In fact, Dodds who was granted a wish last year, was a guest at the 14th annual Make-A-Wish telethon conducted Friday.

Dodds said that in July 2011, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma or bone cancer.

A portion of the femur in her left leg was removed and replaced by a titanium rod.

Dodds also underwent chemotherapy and said she has been in remission for 15 months.

“I think it is amazing that these kids get together to (raise money to) make wishes,” Dodds said. “They are good people who care.”

Dodds' wish was swimming with dolphins in the Florida Keys.

“It was amazing,” she said.

The Plum Borough School District raised $38,017 for Make-A-Wish this year and will accept phone pledges when the telethon airs on Comcast Cable Channel 23 and Verizon Cable Channel 28 during the holiday break.

The total came in just under last year's fundraising amount of $40,549.19.

Since 2000, more than $600,000 has been raised for the nonprofit that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Officials with Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh and Southern West Virginia said they know of no other school district in the country that has raised more money.

About 130 Plum High School students in the television-production program and National Honor Society students each year begin work in the fall to videotape Make-A-Wish fundraisers at the district schools and act as production crew members, interviewers and hosts for the telethon.

Dante Palmieri, 17, a senior who last year worked “security” for the telethon, was a host this year.

“Last year, I watched the hosts and decided I wanted to be a part of it,” Palmieri said.

“It is good experience interviewing people.”

Palmieri, an athlete, interviewed football coach Matt Morgan, as well as fellow high school athletes.

“It is a great experience watching everyone come together and doing something to help such a great cause,” Palmieri said.

Deanna Libertore and Addi Helbling, both 16 and juniors in the TV Production II class, videotaped youngsters in the after-school bowling program at Nesbit's Lanes on Leechburg Road. Owner Rich Nesbit donates proceeds from the program to Make-A-Wish.

“We learned how to work with groups of people,” Helbling said.

“There were 150 kids screaming, ‘Hi, Mom!' ”

“It's worth it to see it all come together,” Liberatore said. “It's one of my favorite classes.”

Plum School Board member Tom McGough, who was interviewed during the telethon, said he is impressed with the quality of the broadcast.

“It looks like something you would see on network television,” McGough said.

“It is a reflection of Mr. (Rick) Berrott (television-production teacher), his staff and the training they give their students.”

Joe Tommarello, Plum School Board vice president and a 2011 Plum High School graduate, has experienced the telethon both as a participant and a guest.

“The technology has changed,” Tommarello said. “It is a great cause.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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