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The 24th annual Friends Across the Mountains telethon broadcast has ended, but donations can still be made for the rest of the night into Thursday!

The telethon aired August 15 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on WBIR and WLOS, a station in Asheville. You can watch a reply here:

Just before the telethon broadcast finished 8 p.m., hundreds of generous donors helped break the donation record with a total of $210,525!

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The yearly effort raises money for the group Friends of the Smokies, which works to help preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness. The group also provides volunteers for needed projects.

Last year, more than $208,000, was raised, bringing the telethon total to a whopping $3.7 million since 1995.

"A lot of locals support the Smokies, but a lot of visitors form Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and other areas as well," Marketing Director Brent McDaniel said. "The entrance to the park is free, there's no ranger taking money, so it's a good way to give back."

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest, free park in U.S.

Donations collected Wednesday night will help fund Friends of the Smokies’ 25th Anniversary Signature Project: a capital campaign to upgrade the park’s emergency radio communications system.

The state-of-the-art radio upgrades will allow rangers to respond more quickly and effectively to emergency situations in the park, keep more than 11 million annual visitors safe, and communicate with emergency services in surrounding communities.

The $2.5 million effort will leverage $1.25 million in federal funds and grants to match every donation made to Friends of the Smokies.

“This radio upgrade project was launched last year and the outpouring of support has been truly gratifying, but we are still short of our goal,” Jim Hart, the president of Friends of the Smokies, said.

Before the telethon, the organization had collected $947,855 of the $1.25 million target. With some $210,000 already donated Wednesday to bring that total up to $1.15 million, it looks like this goal is very close to being met!

“I know our generous supporters of both sides of the mountains will help us make this critical project a reality,” he said.

McDaniel said the radio project was an idea Friends of the Smokies had on their mind for a long time, but the November 2016 wildfires showed the need for those upgrades.

In previous years, the non-profit has raised money for a number of noticeable projects across the park. One of the biggest, Trails Forever, is a 2-year rehabilitation of one trail at a time. Alum Cave, Forney Ridge, Chimney Tops Trail and Rainbow Falls have all undergone the updates.

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