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Variety Club Telethon expanding, leaving Channel 7

The Variety Kids Telethon will see some changes as organizers prepare for the TV fundraiser’s 58th year.

The television event is leaving its longtime home on WKBW-TV (Channel 7), and expanding to a two-day event on two Buffalo stations, Variety Club officials said on Friday.

The event raising awareness and money for Oishei Children's Hospital will be televised on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29. It will continue the next day, Sunday, March 1, from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. on WBBZ-TV (Channel 67), also known as Your Hometown MeTV.

Paul J. Cambria of the Buffalo Variety Club said the expanded hours will provide more time for donor presentations from businesses and volunteers; more airtime for local and national entertainers, and expanded phone donation and credit card segments to raise money.

According to organizers, the Buffalo telethon is the longest running event of its kind in United States. It first aired in 1962 under the direction of the late Dr. Robert Warner, namesake of the Robert Warner Rehabilitation Center at what was then called Children's Hospital, along with Variety. The first telecast was from the Channel 2 studios, but for almost its entire history, the telethon has been on Channel 7.

The 2020 telethon will be telecast live from the Seneca Niagara Event Center in Niagara Falls for the third year.

“The Variety Kids Telethon has raised over 50 million dollars and remains a vital Buffalo tradition. In an age where Telethons have gone off-the-air in many major cities, the Buffalo Telethon is growing,” Cambria said. He added that the Variety Club has been raising money for children’s charities for 80 years.

When asked about the move away from Channel 7, Cambria said, “We had a wonderful run with Channel 7, but we jumped at the chance to move to prime time on Channel 2, and also the chance for another day of exposure.”

Jim Toellner, president and general manager of WGRZ, and Phil Arno, owner of WBBZ-TV, said they are excited to be hosting the event.

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