Archive for Monday, July 1, 2013

Asner show an innovative way to raise funds for United Way

July 1, 2013

Maybe it was the perfect way to start the Fourth of July week. On Saturday night, Jean and I were in an audience of about 1,200 attending a special presentation “FDR” starring Ed Asner of TV fame. The event was held at the Wyandotte High School auditorium and sponsored by one of my favorite organizations: United Way of Wyandotte County.

There were several interesting sidelights to the presentation. Ed Asner, as you probably know, is a native of Kansas City, Kan., and a 1948 graduate of Wyandotte High School. Wyandotte was built in 1937 during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ed Asner was the spokesperson on the 2012 United Way video and has been a strong supporter of Wyandotte County.

Wyandotte High School’s auditorium is ornate and there probably isn’t another high school auditorium in the state that compares with it. Even after 76 years, it is still a show place.

When it was built it was state-of-the-art, however, it is an older structure and was built a long time before handicapped accessibility was a concern. It has a number of steps that can be a bit of a challenge. In my case, the steps were low so I had no problems. For the event Minnesota Avenue, in front of the school, was roped off for handicapped parking.

It was primarily an older audience, too. I suspect that many of those attending were born when FDR was president. There were a good number of Bonner Springs residents attending, and Carol Geary, Gwenneth Nickell and Gisela Weber were listed among the volunteers.

Of course, Ed Asner is famous for his role as “Lou Grant” the crusty news director for the TV station on the “Mary Tyler Moore” show. Later he starred in his own “Lou Grant” show. He received seven Emmy Awards and has been inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame. He has a long list of TV, movie and stage acting credits. This past season he did a guest role on “Hawaii 5-0” and also in a series on Canadian TV.

Beyond that Asner has a lengthy list of humanitarian awards. He served two terms as National President of the Screen Actors Guild. Without a doubt he is the most distinguished Wyandotte County native.

In the production, he related the career of FDR, who battled back from polio to serve as governor of New York and was elected to four terms as president of the United States during the most turbulent times in the 20th century. When he was elected, the country was mired in the Great Depression and had about 25 percent unemployment. He guided the country back only to face a bigger crisis when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Again, he provided strong leadership but unfortunately died just before the war ended. Asner’s presentation alternated between serious history and the humorous side of the presidency. It was interesting and well done.

The event served a dual purpose – it was a wonderful area wide activity and it resulted in much-needed funds for the United Way of Wyandotte County. It is typical of the new and innovative fund-raising efforts of United Way. In the old days, there was a six-week drive and fundraising was over for the year. Now, to meet the growing needs of the area, fundraising is a year-around effort, and it takes thinking outside the box.

United Way serves agencies throughout the county including Vaughn-Trent Community Services. Indeed it was a great night for our area and one that will help alleviate many needs in the community.

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