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United Way kicks off annual fundraising campaign
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John O’Leary was the guest speaker at the United Way of Hall County fundraising kickoff breakfast Thursday morning at the Brenau Downtown Center. O’Leary suffered severe burns to 98 percent of his body when he was a boy, and lost his fingers in the accident.

How to donate

What: United Way of Hall County 2014 fundraising campaign
Online: www.unitedwayhallcounty.org
By mail: P.O. Box 2656, Gainesville, GA 30503.
Workplace: Local businesses can also participate by hosting a workplace campaign and using payroll deductions to collect donations. For more information, visit www.unitedwayhallcounty.org/campaign-basics.

The United Way of Hall County kicked off its annual fundraising campaign Thursday morning at the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville, boasting about $550,000 in donations already from 23 "pace setter" companies.

Now, the United Way turns its attention to the community, asking people of Hall County to donate, volunteer or contribute in any other way possible.

Melissa Tymchuk, director of public relations at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center and chairwoman of the fundraising campaign, asked the hundreds of attendees why they should give to the United Way.

"I had to do some soul searching myself on those questions," she said.

For Tymchuk, the answer is this: the United Way is a lifeline for so many local charities, connecting them to the community with resources and funding.

Jackie Wallace, president of the United Way of Hall County, echoed these sentiments.

"We all have a role to play," she said, adding that the fundraising campaign raised about $1.8 million last year.

John O’Leary was the guest speaker at the event, and his emotionally charged story, sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor and good cheer, brought those in attendance to their feet.

O’Leary suffered severe burns to 98 percent of his body when he was a young boy growing up in St. Louis. He lost his fingers in the accident, but never his spirit.

O’Leary told the audience how the community rallied around him.

Even Jack Buck, the famed St. Louis Cardinals sportscaster, came to O’Leary’s aid, he said.

Today, O’Leary is the founder of the organization Rising Above, which has allowed him to speak to more than 850 organizations in nine countries.

O’Leary challenged those in attendance to reach out and help out, leaving them with one bold question: "What more can you do to make Hall County a better community?"

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