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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

WSUL DJS JUSTIN Case, right, and Annika Sonic, left, interview Heart-a-Thon Co-Chairs Al Frangipane (at the mic) and Gary Siegel during Saturday’s annual (and record-breaking) event, held this year at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris.

Rakes in $68,983

By Dan Hust
HARRIS — February 21, 2006 – WSUL General Manager Helena Manzione seemed on top of the world yesterday.
And she blamed it entirely on Sullivan County.
“There’s a great spirit within this community,” she said from her Monticello office, where she had just confirmed the radio station’s annual Heart-a-Thon had broken its previous fundraising record by more than $7,000.
And her broad smile was evident even through the phone as she unveiled the total proceeds from Saturday’s 28th annual Heart-a-Thon: a whopping $68,983.
Perhaps it was the location, she pondered: Catskill Regional Medical Center’s newly renovated garden-level cafeteria in Harris, a change from the traditional site in Kutsher’s cavernous lobby in Monticello (although Mark Kutsher continued to show up with a check, Manzione added gratefully).
Perhaps it was the weather: although chilly and breezy that Saturday, this has been one of the mildest winters on record, putting many people in better moods.
Or perhaps it was simply the bright and enthusiastic volunteers – close to 100, by one count – who worked for three months prior to the event and then on Saturday itself, setting up tables, collecting donations, working the phones and cheering with raucous applause and bells every time a large pledge was made.
That’s how Heart-a-Thon Co-Chair Gary Siegel got his start in the doings 10 years ago.
“I was the Livingston Manor Rotary’s representative,” he recalled. “The phones weren’t ringing, so I started making phone calls myself ... to people on a list I had brought!”
By the end of that first hour a decade ago, he had collected $1,200 in pledges.
This time around, with Co-Chair Al Frangipane, he oversaw an effort that will result in nearly $35,000 apiece going to Catskill Regional Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Department and the American Heart Association.
“It’s such a great cause,” said Siegel amidst the colorful, noisy setting of the cafeteria Saturday. “And it’s mitzvah. You do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
“We were optimistic from the get-go with the crew we put together,” added Frangipane. “It’s never an individual effort. It’s the effort of many individuals.”
So much so that he and Siegel estimated nearly 6,000 paper hearts had been sold for $1 apiece, in addition to actual pledges.
Janet Siano, coordinator of community groups and the ever-busy phone answerers, said she had gained over $1,000 in heart sales from the banks of Sullivan County alone.
“I think it’s great,” she said on Saturday as nurses took blood pressure readings down the hallway. “This gives people a chance to see where their money is going – and it’s good PR for the hospital!”

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