Eagles Cancer Telethon tops $1 million as Chapman exits

Jan. 15—ROCHESTER — Teresa Chapman ended her 12-year tenure as executive director of the annual Eagles Cancer Telethon on a high note.

The 20-hour live event on KTTC Television raised more than $1 million at the close of the broadcast Sunday afternoon.

"It felt really good to go out at over $1 million," Chapman said. "Who wouldn't feel good about that?"

Chapman wiped away tears as the final total of $1,019,337 was revealed.

Brett Carlson, who works at Mayo Clinic researching brain cancer and is an Eagles Club member, succeeds Chapman as executive director of the telethon.

"It fit," Chapman said. "I found the perfect person who has the heart and the passion for it."

Carlson said he has some ideas to continue to grow the telethon and its fundraising efforts next year. However, the key to its success is involving people who put their talents and interests toward raising money, Carlson said. That won't change.

"We don't want to fix something that's not broken," he said. "Teresa's done an incredible job the last 12 years."

Chapman is stepping down as executive director of the event but isn't stepping away. She plans to continue to volunteer her time for the annual fundraiser for cancer research.

Before accepting her role as executive director, she had volunteered for the event.

The weekend-long telethon has raised more than $20 million since it was established in the 1950s. All of the money stays in Minnesota and is disbursed to the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, the Hormel Institute for Cancer Research, and the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center.

Carlson said he has seen even small grants become a catalyst for major research funding.

Chapman said donations don't have to be huge to make a difference and that they add up.

"People call in and ask, what does it take to raise money," she said. "Whatever you want."

Last summer, Carlson volunteered his time at the Eagles Club in Owatonna's Summer Car Show to raise money toward the telethon.

"Find something you're passionate about, do it and whatever you raise, you raise," he said.

Just as there are no small donations, some of the biggest donors come from small towns.

Lyle Area Cancer, one of the biggest annual contributors, presented a check for $212,500 to the telethon Sunday. Lyle Area Cancer has raised more than $3.5 million toward cancer research since it was established in 1980.

The Geneva Cancer Auction presented a check for $165,000.

"It's teamwork," said Cindy Ziegler, Lyle Area Cancer organizer and committee member. "It's all those people out there."

The telethon, which started in the mid-1950s was originally broadcast from the studios at KROC-TV. It moved to the Mayo Civic Center in 1975 and is now the longest-running locally-broadcast live telethon.