Events hosted by United Way of Blount County are usually laced with laughter and dancing. Thursday’s mid-campaign breakfast, however, had an interesting addition — barking.
The barking, which turned howling at times, came as a result of an anecdote shared by guest speaker Randy Lambert.
Lambert, former Maryville College men’s basketball coach, took the podium with the task of, in his words, “firing up” the audience.
“Since I’m not coaching anymore, I figure she brought me in because of my fundraising skills,” Lambert said.
Lambert spoke of his transition from basketball coach to athletics campaign coordinator.
“I’ve been doing this now for about three or four months, so I’ve figured it all out,” he joked, emitting laughter for the first of many times during his 10-minute speech.
Before Lambert took the podium, several United Way committees took the microphone to share the progress of their fundraising.
A total of $1,325,623 has been raised as of halfway through the fundraising campaign.
This amount is 63% of the overall goal. The committees have approximately five weeks to raise about $800,000 — a task Chairperson Mike Hearon thinks is possible.
“We’re on track, but we can’t let up,” Hearon said.
Testimony about the importance of United Way came from Shellie Vance, a participant at The Gate.
The Gate provides programming for people with disabilities. These programs include preparing for Special Olympics competition, doing arts and crafts and participating in fellowship opportunities.
“I am really impressed that we’ve come this far. I am just so thankful for this,” Vance said.
Stephanie Livigni, executive director of The Gate, said United Way has been “instrumental” in the growth of the organization.
“Without (United Way), we wouldn’t exist,” she said.
The hour-long event wrapped up with a story from Lambert.
He spoke of pre-game talks with a particular basketball player named Shawn “Big Dog” Henderson. Henderson would add affirmations in between each of Lambert’s sentences, and then, at the close of the talk, Henderson would lead the team in barking like dogs.
“That’s how he got his name,” Lambert said.
Henderson then made the United Way staff bark and howl — a task they did willingly and excitedly.
“Help us fight the good fight,” he said to prompt them.