UPDATE: The 23rd annual Friends Across the Mountains telethon raised $208,321 to benefit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a new record for the annual event.
The phone lines were still ringing after the one-hour broadcast ended, and donations can be made online at any time on the Friends of the Smokies website.
The telethon has raised more than $3.7 million since 1995 in support of GSMNP.
"Time and time again, the people who love this special place continue to step up and help us
care for it. We are so grateful for the Friends and the Smokies community who have responded
with such generosity,” GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a statement.
This year's telethon was the start of a new $2.5 million capital campaign to improve the park's emergency radio systems. The total includes $1.25 million in federal funds and grants which will match every donation made to Friends of the Smokies.
Friends of the Smokies said the radio upgrades will allow rangers to respond more quickly and effectively to emergency situations in the park and communicate with emergency services in surrounding communities.
"This fundraising campaign will pay for radio upgrades on top of nearly $1.4 million in annual support the Friends is already committed to provide GSMNP in 2017 and additional funding for continued fire recovery efforts including trail repairs and invasive species removal," Friends of the Smokies said in a statement.
"We are so encouraged by the positive energy right here in our own back yard and all around the country for this important project. This park is a very special place to so many people and their love and support rang out across the mountains last night," Friends of the Smokies President Jim Hart said.
ORIGINAL STORY: East Tennesseans have a chance Wednesday to support the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and programs that benefit it.
WBIR, WLOS in Asheville, N.C., and Friends of the Smokies are holding the annual Friends Across the Mountains telethon. This is the telethon's 23rd year.
The one-hour program will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday. During the show, you can call 1-844-524-1611 to donate. You can always donate at the Friends of the Smokies website.
Last year's telethon raised about $205,000. The fundraiser in 2015 raised about $202,000.
More than $3.5 million has been collected since the fundraiser's start in 1995.
The telethon directly benefits Friends of the Smokies, which then uses funds to help the park, which does not charge an admission fee.
The two stations broadcast the fundraiser in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina to demonstrate the unity of love for the national park, which spans some 522,000 acres in the two states.
The Smokies park is the most visited in the national system, typically drawing at least 10 million visitors a year.
Sponsors of this year's telethon include Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J and SmartBank.
You can show your support for the telethon Wednesday by using #SmokiesTelethon on Twitter and Facebook.
Past donations have helped education, conservation, and historic preservation programs in the Smokies. Money also has gone to rehab popular trails such as the Alum Cave Trail.
© 2017 WBIR.COM