Alexandria's own Jingle Bells Telethon is on; show is set for Saturday

No live audience this year, but the 72nd annual event can be watched on television or the Jingle Bells website.

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At last year's Jingle Bells Telethon, brothers Kalim, Karsten and Kamden Saltmarsh of Osakis sing "Jingle Bells" as a trio during a performance at the Lake Geneva Christian Center. (Echo Press file photo)

Although COVID-19 has been the cause of many cancellations and postponements, it is not stopping the annual Jingle Bells Telethon.

The show will go one.

Yes, it will look different this year, said Chelsey Koopman, president of the Jingle Bells Foundations, but it is happening and will take place this Saturday, Dec. 12, beginning at 5 p.m.

The biggest change this year is that there will not be a live audience. The show can be viewed live on several television stations and on the Jingle Bells website via live streaming at .

The following stations are where the show can be watched live:


  • Selective TV channel 21.4 (LALA)

  • Charter Cable channel 181

  • Gardonville channel 4 (LALA)

  • Runestone Telecom channel 6

  • Arvig channel 14

“We are just happy to have a plan,” said Koopman. “There will be no live audience, which is the biggest bummer, but we can still have the telethon. Anything is better than nothing. Our goal is to help families, and this year we are still going to do that. We will do this the best we can due to the circumstances we have.”
Another big change is this year’s venue. Because it is a much smaller event, there will be a new production team and a new location. The show will be broadcast live from the Performing Arts Center at the Alexandria Area High School.

Some of the performances will be live the night of the telethon, keeping all COVID-19 safety protocols in mind, but Koopman said some were pre-recorded and some will be shared live via Zoom.

She said there will be around 30 different acts, which is similar to past years . Also similar to past years will be the hosts of the telethon, including Chelsea Lee, Tim Urness and Joe Korkowski.

Koopman said there will also still be a phone bank run by volunteers, but there are some changes taking place. She said there will only be a maximum of four people accepting phone calls and that those four people can only come from two different households. In addition, unlike previous years, volunteers will be manning the phones in one hour time slots instead of half hour slots. Volunteers are still needed, she said. To sign up to man the phone bank, call 320-335-2488 or send an email to .

Koopman said the members of the Jingle Bells Foundation are thankful every year for all the volunteers, adding that they are the ones that help make the telethon run so smoothly.

One other big change, Koopman noted, which impacts the number of volunteers needed, is the fact that there will not be any distributing of food and toy baskets.

However, she said donations are still greatly needed as the Jingle Bells Foundation has partnered with Elden’s Fresh Foods and Cub Foods and will be purchasing gift cards to mail out to families. As of Friday, Dec. 4, there were more than 700 families registered through the Jingle Bells website, said Koopman.

She also explained that the amount of money each family receives in the gift card will be based on family size. The gift cards will not all be the same amount, she said.


“There won’t be any toys distributed this year,” she said. “We decided to just focus on the food. It’s our way of giving back.”

If donations exceed the amount needed to purchase gift cards for the registered families, Koopman said the rest would be donated to the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf, the food shelves in the schools and the Reach Program at the high school.

She also said there would be “hardship funds” available to families throughout the year.

Last year’s Jingle Bells Telethon raised more than $100,000.

“We know because of the circumstances we may not reach that this year, but anything is going to help,” she said.

Just like past years, donations can be made during the telethon by calling the phone number that will be posted. For those who prefer to do on-air donations, there is still an option for that.

Koopman said people can take a picture of themselves with their “big checks” or just a picture of the check or whatever they would like and then the photo can be emailed during the show and it will be shown live on the air. Photos can be emailed to .

Although the telethon will not be the same without the live audience, Koopman said the members of the foundation are truly happy it can still go on and families in need can be helped.


She is hopeful the Jingle Bells Telethon will resume to its normal way of operation for 2021.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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