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Building a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can't wait for the construction of a new Children's Hospital, which is on the drawing board but will not be constructed for years, if at all, hospital officials say.

The current facility for dangerously ill infants is old and cramped and offers no privacy for parents and doctors.

Plans for the new Neonatal ICU will be shown to the public during this year's Variety Club Telethon, airing from 10 p.m. Saturday to 7 p.m. Sunday on WKBW-TV, Channel 7. Last year, the Variety Club donated $931,000 from the 1999 and 2000 telethons to the Neonatal ICU as part of a $2 million pledge to the facility. And a good share of this weekend's drive will go to the cause.

Funds raised from the sale of the Kids Day edition of The News -- which totaled $156,000 last year -- and from the telethon go to a wide range of purposes. The child life department received television sets and VCRs as well as computers. Hanukkah and Christmas gifts were purchased for patients in the hospital. Board games, educational books and playroom supplies were purchased to help the patients during their recoveries. Occupational therapy items such as mats, therapy rope and platform swings were added in the Dr. Robert Warner Rehabilitation Center.

Though most of the telethon funds go to specific items and projects at Kaleida Health's Children's Hospital and the Warner Rehab Center, contributions also help local charitable organizations. Last year's contributions helped send more than 100 children to camps throughout Western New York. Special ice skates were purchased for SABAH, the Skating Association for the Blind and Handicapped.

Funds are provided for programs and services at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo to provide after-school adult supervision and structured programs. Computers and software were obtained for the Pantano Computer Lab at St. Mary's School for the Deaf.

Cradle Beach Camp, Camp Good Days and Special Times, the Independent Living Center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo received passenger vans, called Sunshine Coaches, which enable the organizations to transport children. Special playground equipment was purchased and installed at Bornhava, a preschool program for children with handicaps.

In addition to the entertainment featured nationally and locally on the telecast, the Variety Club has set up many special promotions and events open to the public this weekend.

Special promotions

* Western New York food industry -- Under the Fill a Grocery Bag With Hope program, Jubilee, Quality Markets, Tops Markets and Wegmans will make a donation to the telethon through consumer purchases of featured food items that were listed in The Buffalo News on Feb. 18.

* Anderson's and -- When visitors to the Web site make a donation of $5, they will receive an Anderson's discount coupon book filled with coupons valued at more than $30. If they donate $10, they get the coupon book and a chance at a pair of U2 tickets.

* BuffNet -- BuffNet will offer a free month of Internet service to any of its members who donate $20 to the telethon.

* Credit card premiums -- Those who donate using their MasterCard, Visa or American Express Card will receive premiums. Check the Web site, or call Variety Club at 854-7577.

* Delta Sonic -- From now through Sunday, the Delta Sonic gasoline stations in Western New York will donate a penny for every gallon of gas and 50 cents for car freshener spray scent sold.

* Max's Bread -- Through Saturday, a donation will be made from the sale of loaves of Tops large white bread specially marked with a drawing by celebrity child Maximiliano Fisher.

* Ponderosa -- The Ponderosa Restaurants of Western New York are selling a $1 coupon book for meal discounts.

Special events

* The sixth annual "Variety Rocks," an all-ages program, begins at 8 p.m. Friday in the Sideshow Music Hall of the Funhouse, 1830 Abbott Road, Lackawanna. Rock bands scheduled to perform include one fronted by Wally Kurth from ABC's "General Hospital." Tickets are $6 in advance and $10 that night. Tickets are available at Terrapin Station, New World Record,cq Home of the Hits and at the door.

* Mr. Food will host his annual luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Salvatore's Italian Gardens on Transit Road in Lancaster. Tickets are $30 and include a Mr. Food cookbook. Reservations are necessary and can be made by calling 854-7577.

* A live remote on WKBW-TV during the telethon will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday in Kaufmann's Department Store in Walden Galleria. Appearing in the store will be Wally Kurth, Mr. Food, Bowzer from Sha-Na-Na, New York State Lottery hostess Yolanda Vega, boxer "Baby Joe" Mesi and comedian "Airborne Eddy" Dobosiewicz.

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