by Joe DeGweck


As I stood quietly and still on my front lawn peering upward at the clear sky, I felt a sense of security that engulfed me with the warmth of a mother’s hug or perhaps even the affection of a child’s’ embrace. I had forgotten about the single-digit temperatures that surrounded me, dressed only in my T-shirt and without socks to warm my feet.

It was at this moment that it occurred to me to question why such a simple natural phenomenon might affect me in such a way. Perhaps it made me aware of how I was so fortunate to be a simple and small part of such a beautiful and massive universe. Perhaps it was the reality that I was sharing this event with my son, who had chosen to call me at 10:45 P.M. in order to assure that I might not miss this marvelous spectacle in the sky. I don’t really know!

Even today, as I reflect back on this event, I’m not sure how such a simple occurrence could have such a strong emotional impact on me. I only know that it did. My son had called to tell me that the lunar eclipse on February 20, 2008 had just begun.

I had witnessed lunar and solar eclipses in the past. They were no big deal to me. I’m not an astronomy buff or anything like that. I do appreciate the spectacular beauty of this event, as a reddish-orange hue outlined a shadowed moon. I also respect those individuals who truly and sincerely seek the knowledge and wisdom that this episode will provide for science and our future generations to learn from.

And now, this assured awareness that encapsulated me for that moment, brings me the main focus of After 50’s feature article this month. In March, we would like to honor you, our Western New York community, who for the past 46 years have continued to safeguard and protect our children by supporting The Variety Club Telethon. It is the individual and collective effort of all of our families, friends, neighbors and public and private organizations and companies that has led to this success. Each one of you that preserves hope and provides aid to those we most cherish and must protect. We salute all of those who have, year after year, acted as guardians for “EVERYBODY’S CHILDREN.”

It all began in 1962, when Dr. Robert Warner approached Variety, an existing children’s charity since 1928, with a dream of creating a rehabilitation center for children with birth defects. In order for Variety to help make this dream come true, they expanded their fund-raising efforts and thus began the first Annual Variety Club Telethon of WNY.

That year, $80,000.00 was raised to start the Children’s Rehabilitation Center at Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. For the next two decades this telethon continued to act as a tool for improving medical care at that facility.

In 1980 the telethon began serving other children’s charities as well. SABAH, Camp Good Days, and St. Mary’s School for the Deaf are just a few of the other children’s centers that benefit from the efforts of the telethon. Last year the Variety Club telethon raised $1,302,467, was used right here in Western New York for our children.

This year the focus is on the state of the art, Variety Club In-Patient Pharmacy at Children’s Hospital. When speaking with Steve Podosek, he was enthusiastic about the creation of this facility. Steve informed me that this year’s broadcast of the telethon will educate its viewers on the entire process that takes place “from the time a doctor writes a script, to the time it is administered to the patient.”

The safeguards provided by this new facility lessen any chance of mistakes being made. This is a $1.7 million, five-year commitment by Variety to the hospital. Other agencies that provide quality of life health services to our children will also benefit.

The funds raised by this telethon are a collaborative effort by the entire community of Western New York that takes place all year round. That is why Steve refers to it as the “People’s Telethon.” “ It’s the dollar candy bars” sold by the kids down the street who are trying to help a friend or a family member or just another child that they might not even know. It’s the Kid’s Day sale of the Buffalo News distributed by your community social center volunteers.

It’s the contributions made by labor unions, by volunteer fire companies, by corporate sponsors. It’s the car raffle tickets and other fundraisers sponsored by local Boy and Girl Scout troops and the change jars that are in offices and at stores throughout Western New York. That is why Steve emphasizes that “every single penny matters, to our kids and to our efforts.”

Channel 7-WKBW TV has sponsored this telethon for the past 45 years. It is the “longest running locally produced television show in the world.” This broadcast is the culmination of all your efforts and this weekend is a celebration of thanks from the Variety Club staff to the people of Western New York.

There are a variety of events taking place. Mr. Food’s luncheon at Salvatore’s takes place on March 1. There is a concert at the Riviera Theatre at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 1. It will feature all the entertainers who volunteer their time and talent in an effort to help our children.

Clint Holmes, Las Vegas Entertainer of the year for eight years, will be there. Ilene Graff of the TV show, “Mr. Belvedere,” will also be present. Mr. Food, The Rat Pack, direct from Las Vegas, and Buffalo’s own Terry Buchwald will join them in entertaining all who attend this event. There will also be a break time for you to meet and receive autographs and pictures from these talented, gracious and generous volunteers.

This cast will also be present from noon -3 p.m. at the Walden Galleria Mall during the broadcast on Sunday. The Courtyard at The Millennium Airport Buffalo Hotel on Walden Avenue is hosting this broadcast for the fifth straight year now. The effort seems endless. American Express, Visa, and Master Card are offering “premium items” to those who donate to this cause. The food industry of Western New York donates money through the sale of different products.. There are local schools that raise money and Red Coats Women’s Organization that sponsors fundraisers throughout the year.

Look into the faces of our children in need. Gaze upon the glistening smiles of a hopeful spirit within them. Grace Anne Croop, our celebrity child of 2008, was born on Easter Sunday, 1999. She is truly an example of the many children within our community who are challenged from birth. At age 8 “Grace has accepted her many challenges with a determination to overcome any obstacle that come her way with enthusiasm. Her personal strength, along with her positive attitude makes her an example to everyone who knows her. She is truly a miracle walking on earth.” She is the validation of the efforts put forth by the people of Western New York. Grace, along with thousands of other children in our community, are simply asking to “help us grow!”

You can make a difference in the lives of these children. You have the opportunity to be engulfed by the warmth of a beautiful and massively generous community. You have the opportunity to share with others the caring love of being a small part of a hopeful future for these children. Embrace this opportunity and envision their hope. The sense of being needed is truly needed by all.

You can contact or receive more information about the telethon by contacting them at (716) 854-7577 or e-mailing them at

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