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Oct. 26 (that's a Saturday) is "Make a Difference Day" all over the country, and there are plenty of activities involving teens in Western New York.

In Erie County, several Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service) groups and inner-city youths will perform community service activities such as cleaning parks, raking leaves, painting, and helping senior citizens. Teams also will be formed to visit different neighborhoods to collect food for local food pantries.

At the end of the day, the 150 teens will join in a celebration of their good work. Their efforts are being coordinated by the West Seneca Y.E.S. program.

In Niagara County, seven high schools and groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Lockport Youth Council will join to work on projects that include helping seniors prepare the exterior of their homes for the winter; working at Lockport Memorial Hospital; cleaning up local parks and Camp Kenan, and assisting senior residents at the Odd Fellows.

From 200 to 250 Niagara County teens are expected to participate, under the guidance of the Eastern Niagara United Way.

Nationally, 2 million volunteers are getting involved in "Make a Difference Day," the goal of which is to interest teens in volunteer service.

The eighth annual Cavalcade of Bands will take place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Orchard Park High School athletic field.

Presented by the Orchard Park High School Quaker Marching Band Boosters, the program will feature 11 bands, including West Seneca West, North Tonawanda, Lancaster, LaSalle and Jamestown.

Tickets are $3 in advance, $4 at the gate.

If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning teen looking for a safe, supportive and confidential place, Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York has a drop-in center at 190 Franklin St. It is open Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The agency also is sponsoring a six-week workshop/support group for parents called "Straight Parents/Gay Children."

The meetings will be held Wednesdays, Nov. 4 to Dec. 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the YWCA.

For questions or to register, call Beth at 855-0221.

Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York is sponsored in part by the New York State Division for Youth.

Fifteen local students have won the Mark Maddox Red Ribbon Essay Challenge sponsored by Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

The contest, open to sixth- through ninth-graders, required students to write an essay on why it is important to stay drug-free.

The winners are: Jessica Neyman, Alden Middle School; Victoria Everett, Cleveland Hill Middle School; Kati Dawn Kraft, Eden Junior/Senior High School; Zachary Serafin, Frontier Middle School; Sarah Spoonley, Hamburg Junior High School; Sarah DeField, JFK Junior High School; Jennifer Heald, Lackawanna High School; Joel Cleveland, Lake Shore Middle School.

Also, from Buffalo public schools: Terrence Wyatt, Academic Challenge; Sarah Huff, Follow Through Magnet School; Charles Jackson, Futures Academy; Darnel Warren, Martin Luther King; Roxan Skelton, Lincoln Academy; Shawntell Lincoln, BUILD Academy; Kevin Anderson, Buffalo Traditional.

NeXt is a section designed for teens and younger readers, published every Tuesday in The Buffalo News.

Editor: Susan LoTempio (849-4466)

Graphic designer: Terry Lew

Teen hot line: 849-5454.

Write to NeXt, Lifestyles Department, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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