WKBW legend Irv Weinstein may have left his anchor's seat for the last time in 1998, but he never left the telethon. And though the ravages of Lou Gehrig's disease have taken their toll over the past six months, Weinstein remains as committed to the Variety Kids Telethon as he ever was.
"Every year about this time, I get misty eyed thinking about the telethon and the kids, many of whom are now adults, living happy, productive lives with families of their own," Weinstein wrote to the producer of this year's telethon, which runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Many remember Weinstein with deep fondness from his tenure as a WKBW newsman for more than 30 years. During that time, he helped host the daylong charity event benefiting Women and Children's Hospital. As part of his schtick, he would solicit donations for people to get him to sing – or not to sing – "I'm a Little Teapot."
John DiSciullo, the producer for this year's telethon, said the hosts will announce a major donation from Weinstein in the closing hours of the telethon, from 5 to 7 p.m. on WKBW Channel 7.
"He's not telling us how much, but I will say this, it will be a significant donation," said DiSciullo, who was busy with telethon rehearsals at the Seneca Niagara Events Center on Saturday.
Weinstein now lives in an assisted living facility with his wife in Mission Viejo, Calif., but he has occasionally popped up in telethon appearances post-retirement, most notably with fellow anchor team members Rick Azar and Tom Jolls in 2012. The trio comprised the longest-running anchor team in the history of television and remained branded in the memory banks of Western New Yorkers for more than a generation.
When Buffalo News TV Critic Alan Pergament broke the news to the public in October that Weinstein was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, Pergament said the interview was harder on him than it had been on Weinstein, who by that time had been confined to a wheelchair because of the progressive neurodegenerative disease.
A number of local TV news personalities and anchors have ventured over to visit with Weinstein since then, and Weinstein has been happy to see them all.
DiSciullo said that Weinstein doesn't speak now, but he still emails. When The Buffalo News reached out to him by email Saturday, he quickly replied with a request that everyone donate to the telethon and be as generous as possible with their contributions. Last year, the telethon raised more than $1 million for Women and Children's Hospital.
"Although I'm fighting the debilitating effects of ALS," Weinstein wrote, "I'm doing what I can to support the upcoming Variety Club Telethon benefiting Children's Hospital. I hope all of Western New York will do the same."
Story topics: Shared