By Jackie Olensky, TODAY producer
TODAY just wrapped up our 10th Lend a Hand TODAY tour Friday -- and it was by far our most successful year yet. We gave away more than $9 million worth of donations!
But it's not just the material items that mean so much -- it's the people we meet along the way. They are kind, caring folk who were hit by hard times yet remain hopeful that with just a little help their lives could be so much better. You can't put a price on those memories.
Here are a few highlights from each day of the trip (and click on the names of the cities for more info about each day):
Alaska, Day 1: Meeting Ma'o Tosi. He is larger than life and left us all in awe of his undying devotion to Alaska and AK Pride.
Las Vegas, Day 2: The staff of the Cosmopolitan Hotel coming together to fulfill as many items on the charity's wish list as possible. They donated $250,000 to The Culinary Academy of Las Vegas without us even asking!
Houston, Day 3: Jenna Bush joining us in her home state. Another highlight: Seeing all of the smiles on the kids' faces. Everywhere you turned you could see their enjoyment and appreciation grow as the broadcast went on -- especially when they saw the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets players arrive on the scene.
Birmingham, Day 4: Paula Deen taking over! She brings the happy with her wherever she goes.
Charleston, Day 5: The choir singing "Country Roads." We loved how the crowd and charity members joined in.
Many thanks to all who worked so hard to make this happen and to the generosity of hundreds of companies both big and small. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos. And we've already started talking about Lend a Hand TODAY 2012 -- many companies have already committed promising to give even more!