When the red lights on top of the TV cameras went off at midnight Saturday, Bill Butski had one thought.

“We’ve crossed one bridge,” Butski chuckled, “but there’s several more to go.”

The chairman of the Falls Firefighters’ Toy Fund was relieved the charity’s annual cable TV telethon had wrapped up, but he knew there was still lots of work to do.

“Now we have to distribute the toys, take care of the aid to the needy program and, of course, the senior dinner,” the retired firefighter said.

Fund officials have declared this year’s telethon a success, reporting they raised $35,200 by the end of the broadcast, roughly $3,000 more than last year’s telethon. That’s not a final figure, though.

“We don’t count pledges until the money is received,” Butski said. “So last year, we actually ended up with $62,000 (in telethon contributions). I anticipate going over $60,000 again, by a few thousand, by the time everything comes in.”

The telethon is the major yearly fund-raiser for the Firefighters’ Toy Fund, and Butski said he knows there have been a lot of charitable causes that have seen contributions fall off this year. Natural disasters in other parts of the United States and tough economic times locally could have made for a bleak Christmas season for the Toy Fund.

“People don’t have a lot of money, and you have to get innovative,” Butski said.

So why does the Toy Fund continue to meet or exceed its fund-raising needs?

“(People) are assured of a 100 percent return on their buck,” Butski said. “They know where the money is going here, and they get to see it first hand.”

Butski used the example of local steelworkers who showed up at the telethon with a $1,000 check.

“A few years ago, they had a strike, and we came by with turkeys and gifts,” he said. “The people here are touched personally, and I think that makes a difference.”

Contact Rick Pfeiffer at (716) 282-2311, Ext. 2252.

Toy Fund pledges

If you made a pledge to this year’s Falls Firefighters’ Toy Fund Telethon, please honor that commitment by mailing your check today to:

Niagara Falls Firefighters’ Toy Fund

P.O. Box 271

Niagara Falls, NY 14304