The chilly waters of Lake Erie cannot stop one volunteer's dedication to a good cause.
Dunkirk native Denise Wolnik was recently honored with a service award at the Variety Kids Telethon Presentation Dinner for collecting more than 4,300 pledges in the past three years.
When asked why she does it, she said it is for the kids.
"I do it for the kids. I consider them family. I really enjoy it," she said.
Wolnik explained she first decided to do the Polar Bear Swim in Silver Creek, which benefits Variety, because she saw it in the newspaper. At the time though, she just paid the $10 to jump in the water.
Later, she found the cause touched her heart.
"As I got to know more and I got to meet the kids at the show, I wanted to do more," she said.
"When you see the kids, it brings them joy and I see life from a different perspective when I see that. No one in my family is disabled but I consider them my family. My heart opens up when I see them and it makes me want to do this, it gives me encouragement," she explained.
Wolnik explained her strategy for collecting pledges is to start early.
"I start as soon as the Polar Bear Swim is over," she said. "You can't wait until the last minute."
Wolnik collects pledges from family, friends, co-workers and also goes to businesses in Dunkirk and Fredonia and collects cans throughout the year. She also thanked her friend Mark Bradley for his help collecting cans and pledges with her.
Although Wolnik said she does not like winter weather, she puts that aside to help the kids.
Variety - The Children's Charity of Buffalo & Western New York, Tent 7 is a 76-year-old tradition of caring for children on the Niagara Frontier. The organization was founded in 1928 when an abandoned baby, left in a theater in Pittsburgh, was "adopted" by 11 Godfathers. From the desperate plight of a heartbroken mother who could no longer care for her infant, has emerged the "Largest Children's Charity in the World," with 43 Tents, as the chapters are known, throughout the Free World. The sole commitment of each Tent is aid and service to children; the sick, the handicapped and the underprivileged in each locale.
Tent 7, the Buffalo Chapter, chartered in 1934, generated funds in the early years to provide iron lungs for polio victims, wheelchairs, braces and other equipment for handicapped children.
The Children's Rehabilitation Foundation of the Variety Club of Buffalo, Inc. is the recipient of all donations from the Annual Variety Kids Telethon and other fund raising sources.
For more information go to www.varietykidstelethon.com.
This is the Silver Creek Polar Bear Swim's 13th year raising funds for Variety Kids (Woman & Children's Hospital), the Silver Creek Rescue Squad, Sunset Bay Fire Dept. and the Silver Creek Food Pantry. Last year, the swim raised close to $17,000.
For more information on the Polar Bear Swim visit its Facebook page by searching Polar Bear Swim for Charity.