Nobody is going to top the 2012 United Way campaign kickoff that featured the Howard School marching band. That campaign is going down in the record books, 2013 campaign Chairman Tom Decosimo said Thursday.
He tried to get the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga band, but couldn't, he told about 900 people gathered for the annual campaign kickoff.
So Decosimo belted out "76 Trombones" from "The Music Man," and called the audience to join him in a challenge to raise $11.7 million to $12 million.
"The only thing I'm going to top is the amount of money you raised last year," said Decosimo as the crowd began to applaud. "And it's not going to be me. It's going to be everybody in this room and all of the businesses in our area."
The 2012 goal was $11.6 million. Decosimo said $1.9 million already has been pledged to the United Way of Greater Chattanooga for this year's campaign.
The money will be used to improve public education and help provide financial stability for families. The United Way raises money for 42 agencies, said Decosimo.
Decosimo, a certified public accountant and principal with Decosimo CPAs, has advised clients on transactions totaling more than $15 billion throughout the United States and Europe.
"But quite frankly that did not excite me," he said. "I'll tell you what did. I learned what today's United Way does and I was flabbergasted."
Kelley Nave, United Way's director of public relations, said the crowd was the largest at a United Way campaign kickoff in at least five years. In previous years the crowd has been about 600 to 800 people, she said.
Chattanooga Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga hosted the event, and Rotary President Tom Griscom was master of ceremonies.
To accomplish its goals, the agency partners with Hamilton County Schools, Hamilton County, the Chattanooga Housing Authority, Front Porch Alliance, the Bethlehem Center, the Westside Center and more. United Way also helps takes care of the city's most vulnerable residents like those at the Signal Centers and at Orange Grove Center.
"What they are doing is fabulous," said Decosimo. "What group is going to organize all of the different groups into where we need to put our focus? If not for the United Way, I don't know who."
He recognized former College Hill Courts resident Tonya Rooks and commended her for her door-to-door efforts in the Westside, where she talked to people about reading to their children and signed them up to receive books and physical check-ups.
"That's what United Way is all about," Decosimo said as the crowd began to applaud.
Don Gorman, director of administration for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, left the luncheon motivated to raise money for the agency.
"We're going to beat the amount we raised last year," he said. "It's for the good of the community."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 423-757-6431.