Late Thursday morning, a small group of shoppers and employees gathered near the entrance of Walmart store No. 1949 in Fredonia.
Former Buffalo Sabre Rob Ray was on hand to help Fredonia Walmart present a $26,000 check to Women & Children's Hospital as part of a fundraising competition between western New York Walmart stores.
This year, the Fredonia location raised more money for Women & Children's Hospital's Children's Miracle Network than any other Walmart in western New York.
OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio
Fredonia Walmart’s Keith Eberly (left), store manager; Sue Gawronski, office associate; and former Buffalo Sabre Rob Ray pose as part of Thursday’s check presentation ceremony for Women & Children’s Hospital. Eberly and Gawronski display an award, which was presented to Fredonia Walmart for raising more money for Children’s Hospital than any other Walmart in western New York.
Ray, a long-time supporter of Children's hospital, presented Fredonia Walmart with a signed jersey for their dedication to the fundraising effort while assisting in the check presentation ceremony.
"I've helped with Children's hospital it seems since the day I came to (Buffalo) in 1988 and have stayed close to them ever since," Ray said. "Both of my children were born at Children's and over the years we have done numerous events for them.
"We started this project a few years back with all of the Walmart stores for helping to raise money and try to excite a little competition between them all," Ray added. "It doesn't seem like much, it's just a jersey they get to hang up, but it has become quite a competition. They put a lot into it, and the great thing is it raises a lot of money for Children's."
Despite being known as a tough guy during his playing days, Ray is also known as one of the most active public figures in the area when it comes to giving back to the community that embraced him for so many years.
"When I came (to Buffalo) I was an outsider and I was accepted very quickly and people have been very good to me," Ray said. "At the beginning, it was a way to give back. I was always told when people support you and help you out that's what you are supposed to do. You give back. That's the way I was raised.
"I think that if everyone took the notion of, 'Someone else will do it,' it will never get done," Ray continued. "It's not only myself. My family, my kids, we get involved in things and help out where we can because we know we can make a difference. It's tough out there right now, financially. A lot of people are having a tough time, so any way that you can help out families, kids and hospitals, it's the proper thing to do."
Also in attendance was Chautauqua County Miracle child Kallie Swan, along with her parents Shane and Tara Swan.
On Aug. 13, 2013, Kallie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was just 21 months old. A week later, she got an infection that nearly took her life and landed her in Children's Hospital for 32-straight days.
Now, through the work of Children's Hospital and with the help of donations and fundraising from the community, Kallie is in the maintenance stage of chemotherapy and her outlook is bright.
"Buffalo Children's is phenomenal. They are amazing," said Kallie's father, Shane. "They saved her life not only from the infection, but also from the leukemia. She's now in the maintenance stage of chemotherapy, but she has a year and a half left of chemo. We live near Jamestown and are (at Children's) two or three times a week, most weeks. We want to thank everyone here at Walmart for everything they have done for Buffalo Children's. Not just for my daughter, but for all the other kids up there that she has become friends with and we have become friends with."
For more information on how to support Kallie and to follow her journey, visit her Facebook page "Kallie's Krusaders."