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Call this number day or night and college Christmas carolers will sing for free

The University of Illinois’ 58th annual Dial-a-Carol event makes some very festive promises.

For every person who calls in with a carol request, a student volunteer will do his or her best to sing it back over the phone — for free, organizers say. Last year, volunteers on the Urbana-Champaign campus say they happily fielded more than 10,000 calls.

But there’s at least one promise carolers can’t make.

“Sometimes out of tune,” Dial-a-Carol promoters warn. “But we try our best.”

Not that perfect pitch is at all the point: Student volunteers’ real goal is to spread joy and connect with callers from around the world.

Callers can make their requests from Dec. 13 to 19 this year by calling (217) 332-1882 and naming their favorite carol any time of the day or night. There are 10 phone lines for Dial-a-Carol, according to organizers, so hang tight if you end up on hold for a moment.

“For seven days and nights, student volunteers at Snyder Hall sacrifice their study time during finals to share some holiday cheer,” Dial-a-Carol explained in a Facebook post. “They staff the phones 24-hours a day to take requests to sing favorite holiday songs.

Last year, callers from all 50 states and 75 countries inundated Dial-a-Carol with requests. Callers are young and old alike, according to Dial-a-Carol.

International callers have already taken advantage of the festive opportunity this year.

“Last night, I got a call from a [teacher’s] English class in Britain, and she had me sing to the whole class and she mentioned when I finished that her whole class was up and dancing,” caroler Stephanie Tipton told Fox Illinois. “It was the sweetest thing I ever heard.”

Carolers said they’ll look up any obscure carols if they don’t already know the words.

Those looking for song choice inspiration can check out the Dial-a-Carol songbook to see what the carolers already have in front of them. Most of titles are Christmas classics, with a few Hanukkah songs thrown in.

The most popular song is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” according to Dial-a-Carol. Recognizing that, volunteers set up a Mariah Meter to track how many requests they get for the perennial favorite.

“Last year, we sang that dang song more than 300 times!” Dial-a-Carol organizers said.

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