CLEVELAND — What began as an interview during an investigative story has turned into tens of thousands of dollars for those in need in Northeast Ohio.
‘Keep the Lights on CLE’, a campaign between WKYC Studios and CHN Housing Partners to raise money for those in our community facing utility shutoffs amid the pandemic, wrapped up in style on Wednesday with a two-hour fundraising digithon.
The event was hosted by 3News Investigator Rachel Polansky and Digital Producer Dave "Dino" DeNatale. It featured performances by musicians, entertainers, and was also highlighted by one of the most recognizable people in Cleveland, Tim Misny. The personal injury attorney who pledges to "Make them pay!," generously matched donations made during the digithon up to a total of $5,000!
By the end of the digithon, CHN Housing Partners informed us that we had raised over $56,000. With Misny's pledge and your generosity, 'Keep the Lights on CLE' has raised more than $61,000.
Rachel and Dino were joined by other special guests throughout the evening, including:
-Musician Kyle Kidd. Kyle creates Black Art, pulling from the many different avenues of black music and culture, vocally fusing classical, jazz, blues, gospel, funk and soul.
-Musician Marcus Alan Ward. Marcus is a singer, songwriter, producer, and electro soul pioneer. He calls himself an amalgam of reality and fantasy; traditional and modern; spectral and visceral.
-Magician Rick Smith Jr. Rick is a master card thrower, entertainer, mentalist and illusionist. He has appeared on many national TV shows including Ellen, Shark Tank, and The Tonight Show.
-Musician Monica Robins. Monica is the lead singer of Monica Robins and the Whiskey Kings and lead singer of Monica Robins and the Ninja Cowboys. She's also our Senior Health Correspondent here at 3News.
-Comedian Mike Polk Jr. Mike is a comedian, actor and author. He has performed comedy all over the country. He’s also our feature reporter here at 3News.
Polansky, who met with several residents living every day under the threat of mounting utility bills and shutoffs over the past few months, spearheaded the campaign along with Executive Producer Phil Trexler. They introduced us to people like veteran Terrance Dewalt.
"What’s in my hand is bills that are surely getting ready to shut off," said Terrance Dewalt as he flips through electric, water and sewer bills. When asked about his biggest fear, Dewalt responded, "That I might freeze to death because they’re gonna cut my power off."
Many residents who are struggling to get by do not qualify for government assistance programs. The need is far greater than the supply.
"I wake up every day thinking, is this the day that the worst could happen?" asked Jennifer Toth. Disabled for 16 years with lupus, her social security income is fixed. Her days of worry are not.
“In the beginning of COVID-19, it changed everything for me. Basic needs, the costs went astronomically high, so the limited income I was already on was getting more limited," she added.
Watch the digithon in its entirety in the player below: