January 29, 2014 Edition

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Vaughan helps raise
funds and awareness

KAIT meteorologist Ryan Vaughan presents a check from weatherist.com to Tonjia Miles, administrator of The Children's Shelter. Vaughan was named America’s Favorite Weather Forecaster as part of a competition with a $500 prize to be awarded to a charity.

Gretchen Hunt

When Ryan Vaughan, KAIT meteorologist, was selecting what charity should benefit if he were to be selected as winner in weatherist.com's America's Favorite Weather Forecaster, he really did not anticipate actually winning the contest.

"The viewers shocked and amazed me," he said. "I can honestly say that if I had to put a percentage on our chances of winning it would have been about two percent."

But the votes began building quickly due to a combination of Vaughan's popularity, a massive social media campaign and support for his chosen charity — The Children's Shelter in Walnut Ridge.

"Not only did they vote, and then share and tweet, but I was just blown away that people have continued to give," he said.

In the end, Vaughan was named the winner, but the shelter, which has served 607 children since opening, is receiving the prize.

Weatherist.com offered a $500 prize for the charity of the winner's choice and also collected $120 in donations. On top of that, the shelter saw a surge of donations as people heard about the shelter's needs.

As of Monday, $4,361 in donations had been received as part of Team Ryan, mostly through an online giving option at www.thechildrensshelter.org.

In addition hundreds of individuals have added The Children's Shelter as a friend on Facebook as a result of the increased awareness.

"You can't put a dollar value on that," said Tonjia Miles, administrator of the shelter.

Vaughan said he wanted the charity he selected to be one that helps children in need and one that could really use the money.

"My family has a heart for children in the foster system, and I had recently become aware of The Children's Shelter, so it just came to me that this is who deserved the money," he said. "A lot of people don't know about the shelter, or we sometimes tend to put things that are bad in our community in the back of our brain. Many would be shocked to know there are 4,000 children in the foster system in the state of Arkansas."

After Vaughan presented the check on Monday, Miles presented a thank you card to him that was colored and signed by children at the shelter.

"First of all, we think he is a wonderful meteorologist, and we are so blessed that he picked The Children's Shelter as his charity," Miles said after the presentation. "The money is wonderful, but the increased awareness is amazing. We have been very blessed."

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