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Captain Domoregood pranced across the platform Wednesday in a mask and flowing black cape, summoning the crowd to join in an oath with their right hands raised.

Domoregood, known without her costume as Mary Sue Bauer of East Amherst, then unrolled a scroll and asked the assembled to repeat after her: "I solemnly pledge . . . before my fellow superheroes . . . to seek family, friends and neighbors . . . and tell them that United Way Community Care . . . is the best way to do the most good with a single bound . . ."

The witty pledge concluded a celebratory luncheon for about 560 volunteers with the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County in the Buffalo Convention Center.

The United Way campaign, however, will continue through March.

Instead of using the annual fall luncheon to mark the end of the campaign and announce whether a dollar goal had been met, United Way organizers reported what has been raised so far, about $13.8 million, with the caveat that they still have much more work to do.

Organizers this year have adopted a different approach to the campaign, downplaying a campaign goal and a deadline for raising the money.

In 2003, they raised $18.9 million and celebrated with a lunch at the end of October.

But organizers said they were not $5 million behind last year's pace because they were counting only pledges "in hand" and no longer estimating anticipated gifts -- a practice that was discontinued this year.

Organizers had $13.3 million in hand last year at this time.

The campaign this year has featured a superhero theme, urging ordinary citizens to do extraordinary good deeds by pooling their resources into the United Way Community Care fund.

To emphasize the point, Bauer was one of several volunteers who strutted around in skin-tight superhero costumes at United Way events and in television ads.

"It has been tremendous fun," she said. "I hope I've made it a little more entertaining for the people who are really out there working hard."


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