Behind the scenes look at Telethon reveals Prokes’ dedication

Charlie Connelly

Charlie Connelly, Staff Reporter

Every year the RBEF Telethon provides funds for grants to be issued out to Riverside Brookfield students in hopes of aiding them in a variety of fields. The telethon event dates back all the way to the earliest days of television production at RB, with the initial telethon occurring in 1989.

Traditionally, the telethon has been held in the fall, but this year it aired Saturday, February 23.  Since the RBEF (Riverside Brookfield Educational Foundation) was occupied with other projects earlier in the year, the telethon was delayed a few months and pushed into the new year.

With pledges from the community still being collected, it is unclear exactly how much money the telethon totalled.  However, as of February 27, pledges committed were in excess of $23,5000.

The community sees a wide variety of what the RBEF telethon has to offer. They see what is going on in the studio, the three hosts of the segment, the telephone operators, the live performances of RB talent, but what they don’t see is the incredible work that goes on behind the cameras. I personally had the opportunity to experience that aspect first-hand, and I can honestly say it is much more fascinating and complex than what the average viewer observes at home. First of all there is an extreme amount of prep work and planning that goes into the telethon, beyond the depths of what many would think. It takes about six weeks prior to the event to get everything scheduled, set up, and ready to go for the big day.

In the perspective of Gary Prokes though, it is much more than that.  “It is an ongoing process.  There is constantly something in motion,” he said.

Having experienced what goes on behind the scenes first hand I can tell you that it is no walk in the park working the telethon. There are camera men stationed in the studio and in the auditorium that run hour upon hour shifts. Additionally, there is an incredible ensemble of people that make up the crew. That includes the workers in the control room (headed by Prokes) which encompasses operators of sound, graphics, camera taking, teleprompter running, and floor managing. From one o’clock to nine o’clock, the crew is running non-stop. Of course there are many shifts that interchange roles and other duties, but for the most part the process is continuous for the brave that take on the job. The viewers at home may just see the talent on stage or the hosts talking at the desk but in reality there is much more going on than what is generally known.

With the telethon being from one to nine o’clock, there is no doubt in saying that it is a grueling process for the crew, but it is safe to say that it was most grueling for the head operator of the telethon, Prokes, who was stationed in the control room for eight straight hours. Prokes has personally been at RB for two decades now and each year has run the telethon event. This year Prokes got to RB on the day of the telethon at 9 A.M to prep for the long day ahead of him and left after a long days work, at 10 P.M. Dedication is one thing, but for Gary Prokes it is beyond dedication that keeps the telethon an annual success. Without a shadow of a doubt, the event never gets old for him; in fact every year just keeps getting better and better.

It is hard for Prokes to think of one thing that stands out as to what makes the telethon so fun for him but what he could say was, “It’s great to see the amount of support that the community gives the school. You have parents working alongside students, who are working around teachers, administrators, and alumni, and I think that’s a neat mix of people working together at one time for a single cause, which is a pretty neat thing.” From a response like that you can definitely tell that Prokes simply loves what he does because he knows it’s for a good cause.

When asked what his least favorite part of the job was, he had no answer. If that doesn’t show dedication and passion to single cause and event, then I don’t know what does. Although there is an incredible workload that goes into prepping and carrying out an event like the telethon, Prokes wouldn’t change a single thing, which truly speaks volumes on the heart he brings to his profession.

Ultimately, the RBEF Telethon is an incredible event that RB has the honor to put on year in and year out. It encompasses a variety of talents that not only go into what we as viewers at home see but what additionally goes on beyond our focal points. What we don’t see is an incredible piece of the puzzle that further leads us to what we see on camera. It takes hard work, time, effort, dedication, and above all passion to put on a successful event like this. For people like Prokes those attributes are instilled in their heads and I can only imagine that he has passed that mindset on to anyone he has worked with in the telethon’s process, not only this year but in years prior as well. What it comes down to is a mass of people helping out each other to reach one goal, and whenever that can be done successfully; it’s a pretty a remarkable accomplishment.