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Wildcats to host telethon for Superstorm Sandy victims

UPDATE: UK released the numbers for Wednesday’s telethon for the victims of Superstorm Sandy as well as announcing that the telethon has been extended an hour.

Phone banks will be open from 6-9 p.m. In the Lexington area, the telethon can be seen live on WKYT from 7-8 p.m. Coverage will then switch over to CWKYT from 8-9 p.m. Members of the team will take phone calls and donations from 7 -9 p.m. People wanting to make a donation in the Lexington area can call 859.299.5455 and those outside the Lexington area can call toll free 855.257.2700.

During non-telethon hours, people can call the Red Cross at 859.253.1331 or 800.RED.CROSS. Additionally, monetary donations can also be taken to any Central Bank location in Lexington.

 The special event will also stream live at WKYT.com.

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Two days before opening the season in Brooklyn, N.Y., John Calipari and his Kentucky basketball team, in conjunction with WKYT, will host a telethon to help raise money for victims of Superstorm Sandy. Brooklyn was hit particularly hard by the storm’s path.

“This was devastating,” Calipari said, speaking about the images he had seen of the damage the storm had done to the East Coast. “When I saw the stuff in Queens, it reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in and the people I grew up with.”

The telethon will air throughout Kentucky on Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on WKYT and UK/IMG affiliates. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross to benefit the victims of the storm that struck the Northeast last week.  The special event will also stream live at WKYT.com.

More details and telethon phone numbers will be released later. During non-telethon hours, people can call the Red Cross at 859.253.1331 or 800.RED.CROSS. Donations will also be accepted at www.redcross.org.

The Wildcats have a personal connection to the storm. Sophomore Brian Long’s family home in Dumont, N.J., was hit by the storm.

“I was pretty nervous,” Long said. “I just tried to keep in touch and make sure everything was alright.  The images … were rough in certain places.”

Long said his family was staying with his sister a few towns away, hoping to be able to return to their home soon.

Calipari and the Big Blue Nation helped raise more than $1 million to aid victims in Haiti after it was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2010, and Coach Cal hopes to do the same for victims of Sandy. Calipari said that they received more 70,000 calls in their “Hoops for Haiti” fundraiser and he hoped to have this event set up to take just as many.

“If we’re able to do something and to raise a ton of money for these people, for these victims, you have to do it,” Calipari said. “It’s not an option.”

Calipari said that even with their first game of the season coming up on Friday, he felt like it would be cheating his position if he didn’t help the victims of the storm.

“What we’re doing here is bigger,” Calipari said. “What we’re letting our players understand is it’s bigger.”

Calipari said he is connecting with former players and celebrities to try and make appearances to help raise awareness and money for the event. The hope is to have unique items for people to bid on, similar to what they did with the Haiti telethon.

Wildcat players will man the phones to take calls and donations for victims of the storm, and Calipari said that donations would be matched into the six-figures, though he was unable to verify an exact amount.