BY JOE OLENICK
There were two reasons Wal-Mart employees and customers were cheering and shouting Wednesday morning.
The first was when three-year-old Joey Mayer took his coat off to have his picture taken with former Buffalo Sabres forward Rob Ray and a group of Wal-Mart employees. When everyone saw the Buffalo Sabres shirt he was wearing, they clapped and roared with approval.
The second was that Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo was recognizing the Transit Road store in Lockport for donating over $103,000. The fundraising efforts were part of Wal-Mart’s national campaign for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, which Children’s is a part of. The store had the highest total in the country. Area Wal-Mart stores raised a total of $500,000 for the network.
“It is a huge accomplishment,” Ray said. “It’s nice to be able to see what you do actually works and benefits people.”
Wal-Mart associates raised the money over a 12-month period, surpassing their goal of $100,000. Store manager Chris Lazarou said he was proud of the employees.
"It’s a wild feeling,” he said. “We came together and made a decision that we were going to raise $100,000. With a great community that we have, they just help support our hospital unbelievably.”
The goal for next year is $110,000. Lazarou said the community is the reason why the drive is successful.
“You can’t find better people than Western New York to help support people in need,” he said.
The celebration included coffee and donuts courtesy of Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons is beginning a drive of their own, the “smile cookie.” Cookies with a smile on them are sold at Tim Hortons throughout the area for $1, which goes to Children’s. Last year, the drive brought in about $30,000.
Lisa Latrovato of the hospital foundation said Wal-Mart raised the money through events such as a balloon drive, special gift sales and the “change round up.” Customers were asked to round their totals up to the nearest dollar, with the extra money going to the hospital.
Ray presented a framed autographed jersey to the Wal-Mart in Lockport for being the number one store in the area in raising the most funds.
The jersey is a vintage white Sabres jersey with the charging buffalo and two swords on the front of the jersey. Ray’s name, number 32 and a message congratulating the store is on the back. The jersey will then be passed on to the number one store in the area each year.
The money goes to the hospital for equipment and other needs the hospital may have. The jersey, and a banner thanking the Lockport community for their support, will be hung somewhere in the front of the store.
Other items that have been donated by Wal-Mart stores include clothes, electronics, food and water, toiletries, toys and flowers for the hospital garden.
Since 1987, Wal-Mart has raised more than $387 million nationally for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222 ext. 6241.