The 31st annual telethon of the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society netted slightly less in pledges this year than last year, but organizers aren't disappointed.

The final tally for the 24-hour event, which spanned two days, was $195,085.

George Taylor, who founded the telethon, and is its entertainment coordinator, said the figure "was higher than projections," citing the current economy.

The telethon was held at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe from noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday, and was broadcast live on Blue Ridge Communications TV 13.

Featured were about 50 acts during the two days, including soloists, bands, dance studios, school groups, church organizations, and choruses.

The final tally was announced at midnight last night. Just prior to the announcement, Lisa Hiles of Hiles Brothers in Summit Hill presented a check to host Joe Krushinski, totaling $23,000, the amount raised at the Labor Day event called ZooStock held at the Sports Zoo in Lansford. Hiles added $2,500 to that tally.

The highlight of the telethon was the presentation of three "Courage Awards." Each year Courage Awards are presented to individuals who are afflicted with cancer, but fail to let the dreaded condition adversely affect them.

This year's Courage Award recipients are Betty Ann Waidell of Tamaqua, who has breast cancer; Jamie Lynn Tatusko, 25, of Nesquehoning, who has Hodgkins lymphoma; and Elizabeth "Lee" Bubel Kostin of Brockton, 85, who has cancer in the neck, throat, and lungs. Kostin was unable to be present for her award.

The awards were presented by Maureen Donovan, a member of the telethon committee.

Waidell was accompanied by her husband, Mark. Donovan told her that what impressed her was a statement Waidell made, "I'm not going to let this get me down."

The award recipient said, "I have too much to live for," and mentioned that she has relatives and many friends who have been very supportive.

She also praised the support she got from her husband, noting that when she was diagnosed she didn't immediately want to return home because she was afraid she'd just sit and cry. So her husband took her shopping.

Her advice to cancer victims is "Just believe in your doctors and trust them and do what they say."

Seated with Tatusko when she received her award was Dr. Herbert Hoover, a cancer surgeon with Blue Mountain Health System who diagnosed her illness.

Dr. Hoover said Tatusko "has been an inspiration" to him. He said of the award recipient, "She's a strong individual who won't quit."

He added, "She tolerated her chemotherapy unbelievably well."

Tatusko is a teacher in Weatherly Area High School. Dr. Hoover said her prognosis is "very good."

Dr. Hoover praised the positive attitude of Tatusko, stating, "Attitude is obviously very important."

He remarked, "The will to live is so important" in battling cancer.

Tatusko said one of the things which helps her cope with the malady is the support system of relatives and friends that she has. She said her students have been very good about her sickness.

Donovan pointed out that despite her regular bouts with chemotherapy, Tatusko hasn't missed any time off from her teaching job.

She also attributed her aggressive battle with her cancer to being an athlete, which "definitely makes you a stronger person," both physically and mentally.

She explained that athletes have both good and bad days when they compete. In her fight with her Hodgkins, there are both good and bad days.

A group of possibly two dozen friends and relatives were present to watch Tatusko receive her award.

After the presentation, she and her sister Lauren went to the podium and read from a large pile of pledge forms on which people donated on Jamie Lynn's behalf.

Krushinski of Maryland, who is a graduate of Tamaqua High School and also was involved in the telethon's inception, has been host for most of the telethons.