The United Way of Johnson County knocked it out of the park this year.

Among hundreds of supporters sporting their best ballpark gear on Wednesday, the nonprofit group unveiled the results of this past year’s campaign. To great fanfare, volunteers revealed the fundraising total — $1,505,000.

And the crowd went wild.

“We have a lot of MVPs, a lot of All-Stars and a lot of Gold Glovers here,” said Dan Hampton, campaign chair for the United Way of Johnson County and regional president for Horizon Bank.

The baseball-themed unveiling served as the centerpiece of the United Way’s annual celebration, an opportunity for local businesses, organizations and supporters of the organization to be recognized for their generosity and to harness momentum moving into the coming campaign.

Though leaders just missed on their fundraising goal of $1,536,000, this year’s total represents a 2% increase from giving last year. That’s reason to celebrate, Hampton said.

“Those results are truly exceptional, and it’s to the thanks of all of you in the room. We couldn’t have done it without all of you who participated, not only in the room but a lot of folks not here today,” he said.

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The United Way of Johnson County is a nonprofit organization looking at the needs of the community, raising the funds and allocating those funds appropriately in order to meet the pressing needs of county residents. They support 16 agency agencies, including Gateway Services, Johnson County Senior Services and KIC-IT.

In addition, the group helps put on seven annual programs, from the Christmas Angels holiday giveaway to the Operation Bundle Up coat distribution to the Fast Track school supply drive. Those programs help the neediest and most vulnerable members of the community.

“These agencies and programs provide valuable services. They teach young girls and boys to grow up to be confident and smart so they can change the world. They provide transportation for senior citizens so they can enjoy a day with their family and friends. They comfort those who are homeless and work with them to find a permanent place to live…” said Suzanne Miller Beard, board president. “Every dollar that is donated to United Way of Johnson County is used to have the greatest impact possible in our community.”

The annual celebration is an opportunity for the United Way to thank hundreds of volunteers, spotlight companies that ran outstanding fundraising campaigns and recognize board members who have led the organization.

The $1,505,000 raised during 2023-2024 for the United Way marks the highest fundraising total since 2019, and a significant increase from the $1,476,974 raised the year before.

“… Because the United Way is an organization as American as baseball or apple pie, we’re will honor the donors, the volunteers and the agencies who help United Way hit it out of the park,” said Rob Shilts, executive director at Franklin Heritage and emcee for the event.

The baseball theme woven into the celebration served up a wealth of baseball puns and references as juicy as any hanging curveball over the middle of the plate. Past United Way board presidents Michele Neumann and Carol Phipps lead the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett even kicked off the event by throwing out the first pitch.

Shilts, who regularly serves as the master of ceremonies at the Historic Artcraft Theatre screenings, peppered the program with baseball movie references.

“There’s no crying in baseball!” he told Hampton as he accepted the Paramount Award — given for the top fundraising campaign — to Horizon Bank.

Closing out the event, Shilts quoted The Babe from the classic film “The Sandlot: “Let me tell you something kid. Everybody gets one chance to do something great. Most people never take that chance, either because they’re too scared or they don’t recognize it when it spits on their shoes.”

Shilts made sure to emphasize what route the assembled group had taken.

“But you guys have all done something great today, and you need to give yourselves a big round of applause,” he said.