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Former 'Satellite Child' enjoys telethon benefit

Have you ever arrived at a major community fund raiser in a fire truck?

That is exactly what I did eight years ago, courtesy of the West Seneca Fire Department.

This was because I was the West Seneca "Satellite Child" for the Variety Club Telethon that year. I return to this event every year -- but now I have to arrange my own transportation.

At the age of 7, I was the West Seneca "Satellite Child," representing West Seneca at the main Variety Club Telethon in 2001. I had received multiple services and surgeries from Children's Hospital due to my hearing impairment.

Although I was quite young, I remember the excitement of being on television. My best memory was of the West Seneca Fire Department picking up my brother and me at our house in a large fire truck and taking us to the West Seneca Satellite Auction. I didn't fully understand what led to that fun-filled weekend, but I can fully appreciate the efforts today as I return to this annual benefit for Women's and Children's Hospital.

For more than 30 years, the West Seneca Satellite of the Variety Club Telethon has helped in the fundraising efforts to support the hospital. This satellite alone has raised more than $1 million. Numerous volunteers assist with fundraising efforts all through the year, culminating in an auction on Telethon weekend. Various organizations donate products and services which are auctioned off over two days. There is always plenty of food, games and entertainment. This year, the West Seneca satellite event raised more than $35,000 by 4 p.m Sunday.

This year I watched people bid for items beyond their retail value. A hand-crafted decoration was sold for $200. People even bought and paid for items, and then donated them back to allow the auction to make more money. Children's toys, appliances, services, sporting goods, crafts, even cheesecakes were auctioned off.

Watching all these people, young and old, work so hard to raise money "for the kids" is inspiring. It is hard not to be affected by the enthusiasm and dedication of ordinary people whose lives were somehow affected by a sick child.

William Wise is a freshman at West Seneca West Senior High.

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