OTTUMWA— Phones ringing off the hook, live broadcasts and thousands of dollars flowing in; that is exactly what was happening on Saturday.

The first ever “One foot at a time” Mediathon to raise money for the Ottumwa Trail System was held at the KOTM studios in Ottumwa, with a large group of volunteer answering phones and taking pledges, while live broadcasts played from the studio and remote locations.

Several guests joined emcee Dan Canny, advertising director at The Ottumwa Courier and Tom Palen, owner of KOTM in the studios and over the air to pledge their support to the Mediathon.

The event was a collaborative effort of several of the local and area media outlets including: KMGO and KCOG, of Centerville, KOTM and KLEE of Ottumwa KELR of Chariton and The Ottumwa Courier.

The groups broadcasted over all four stations live from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with special guests on the air during most of the broadcast, trying to raise money to pave 8.1 miles of trails in Ottumwa.

“This is one of the visions we had for the Wapello County Greater Places,” said Tim Schwartz. “Although we did not get designated as a great place we wanted to continue that vision.”

Early on in the event several challenges were brought about by local businesses.

Les Thostenson of Coldwell Bankers pledged $1,000 if the group could get four other businesses to do the same. And Paul Zingg, a local attorney, pledged $500, challenging other attorneys in the area to match his amount.

During the broadcast there were many guests who visited the studio and did phone interviews with the group showing their support for the event and encouraging area residents and businesses to pledge their money to help out this Ottumwa project.

Sen. Keith Kreiman, D-Bloomfield said he is behind this project 100 percent and he is trying to get the state to back it up as well.

“The legislature is working to see if there is money in the infrastructure fund to give some money to the Wapello County Greater Places for projects like the Ottumwa trail system,” he said on air Saturday.

Gov. Tom Vilsack also joined the group on the air saying that he thinks this is a wonderful thing, that local media is coming together for a common purpose.

Later during the broadcast City Engineer Bob Davis explained the project a little bit more.

He said the money raised on Saturday would go to pave about 8.1 miles of trails in Ottumwa.

“It takes about $25 per foot to do a paved trail,” he said. “This money would be specifically for the trails.”

Although any donation was appreciated at the event, Canny, Palen and the rest of the bunch were trying to get as many feet purchased as they can.

“Buy a foot of the trail,” Palen said. “Hell, throw in 50 or 100 bucks and buy a couple feet.”

Owner of Riverside Cyclery Josh Gettings said this would be a good opportunity for Ottumwa. He said the trail system could be used for other events, too.

“We could use this trail system for events like Race for the Cure and it would provide miles of trails,” he said. “It would be safe and uninterrupted.”

Besides having people in the KOTM studios taking money, the event was also being broadcasted from two other locations; the Quincy Place Mall and North Hy Vee.

The two remote locations were having a friendly competition with each other to see who could raise more money.

Palen said this is not the first time area media has come together.

“A couple months ago, when hurricane Katrina hit the south, The Ottumwa Courier and the radio stations came together to raise money and items for the victims down there,” he said. “We started off trying to fill a trailer and ended up with two semi’s full of stuff.”

Once again, Canny said the community has shown their support for a good cause.

Nancy Harmes, president of the Rotary Club in Ottumwa pledged $6,200 on behalf of the organization.

Along with her donation Thostenson’s challenge was met raising a total of $6,500 with matches.

The goal for the Mediathon was $50,000 on Saturday.

Though the entire goal was not met, a large portion was obtained by the event.

A total of $42,360 was reached with a few pledges coming in after 1 p.m. on Saturday. The actual amount raised was $32,360, but there was a local business who said if the group managed to raise over $30,000 they would contribute $10,000 to the project.

Contributors did not go away empty handed either. Besides helping out Ottumwa’s trail systems several prizes were given away in turn for donations.

Several subscriptions to The Ottumwa Courier were given away, along with merchandise from area businesses, gift certificates and a $250 voucher for any item at Riverside Cyclery, with a entry for every $25 donation.

“The winner of the Riverside Cyclery voucher will be announced on KOTM and KMGO on Tuesday morning,” Palen said, due to the overwhelming number of $25 donations.

Canny said he was pleased at the results of the Mediathon and this goes to show what can happen when a community pulls together.

“I’m very pleased, I’m also shocked at the number of out of town donations we received,” he said. “We didn’t hit the goal of $50,000, but we came very close and we can still do it.”

Any individual or business still wanting to donate money to the Ottumwa trail fund can bring their donation to the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce.

Scott Niles can be reached at (641) 683-5360 or via e-mail at sjniles@mchsi.com.

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