Every Dollar Donated Stays in WNY

Faces and Features at 55th Annual Variety Kids Telethon


Date:                           3/8/2017

For Release:                Immediate

Contacts:                     Natalie Photiadis, Assistant Director, Variety – the Children’s Charity of Buffalo & Western New York (t) 716.854.7577 (e) natalie@varietybuffalo.org

Sue Dobmeier, Creative Services Director, WKBW-TV (t) 716.840.7860

(e) sue.dobmeier@wkbw.com


Faces and Features at 55th Annual Variety Kids Telethon


LANCASTER, N.Y. – The 55th Annual Variety Kids Telethon will air on Sunday, April 2, 2017 from 7 AM to 7 PM and will be broadcast live from the Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls on WKBW-TV Channel 7. The following faces and features will be part of the event.



DON RAISER returns for the second year as the General Chairman for the 2017 Variety Kids Telethon. Born on the East Side of Buffalo, Don “DJ” Raiser graduated from Bishop Turner in 1979. Current co-owner of Tread City Tire, Mr. Raiser has been with the company for twenty-four years. An avid drag racer, Raiser has won multiple National Championships and will be inducted into the Lancaster Speedway’s Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2017. He has also been deeply involved in the music industry in Buffalo and was nominated to the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. Mr. Raiser serves on the board of the Music is Art Foundation. As a Variety board member for over ten years, Mr. Raiser has found a true passion in serving the community, fulfilling his love for helping children and helping to save lives.

Assisting Don are Honorary Co-Chairs BRAD GAWRON and FRANK CATARISANO, both current board members for Variety.

JOSEPH SAHLEN is serving as Honorary Chairman. Mr. Sahlen is the President of Sahlen Packing Company, Inc. a family-run business that was started by his great-grandfather in Buffalo in 1869. All five generations of Sahlen family ownership have always been active participants in the business and have been lifelong residents of Western New York. Mr. Sahlen has been President of the company for 38 years, and he enjoys working with his family as they deal with the exciting challenges that their business encounters as they approach their Sesquicentennial. Sahlen’s has been a long-time supporter of Variety, and as Honorary Chairman and in line with the “Variety is WNY” theme, Mr. Sahlen has stepped up the company’s support for the 2017 Telethon.

Twins KELLY AND KYLE HOFFMAN, 6, of Pendleton, New York are the Telethon Celebrity Children. They will be joined by their parents, Stacy and Brian Hoffman, and their younger brother, Jacob. The twins attend Starpoint’s Fricano Primary School.



Under the direction of MICHAEL NURSE, Vice-President and General Manager, WKBW-TV, Scripps Broadcasting Company, Channel 7 will host the Telethon for the 54th year. The “Variety is WNY” Telethon will be broadcast live from the Seneca Niagara Events Center on April 2, 2017 from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Channel 7 Personalities appearing will be news anchors KEITH RADFORD, ASHLEY ROWE, JEFF RUSSO, KATIE MORSE, HANNAH BUEHLER, ALI TOUHEY and Senior Meteorologist MIKE RANDALL, Chief Meteorologist AARON MENTKOWSKI, Director of Meteorology ANDY PARKER, Meteorologist AUTUMN LEWANDOWSKI and Meteorologist DON PAUL.  Sports Anchor JOE BUSCAGLIA and Sports Reporters NICK FILIPOWSKI and MATT BOVE will pitch viewers for their contributions along with LINDA PELLEGRINO and COURTNEY CORBETTA from “AM Buffalo.”

Other Channel 7 Personalities who will be on hand throughout the 12-hour event include JOSH BAZAN, CIERRA JOHNSON, LIZ LEWIN, JUSTIN MOORE, THUY LAN NGUYEN, ED REILLY, JEFF RUSACK, CHARLIE SPECHT and PAOLA SURO.

The Executive Producer is JOHN DISCUILLO from WBBZ-TV, with assistance from RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, Executive Director of Variety.  He will be joined by “AM Buffalo” Executive Producer FRANK PACELLA, along with News Director ROB HEVERLING, Assistant News Director AARON MASON, Executive Producer SHANNON ROSS, Creative Services Director SUE DOBMEIER, JIM EVANS Client Services Director and Program Manager LANORA ZIOBROWSKI.


JOEL BARONE and JIM EVANS from WKBW produce the special video stories.  Assistant Chief Engineer KEVIN CHUDY, under the supervision of Chief Engineer MIKE ANGER put the show together from the engineering and production side working with the NABET crew.

This year the Telethon Social Media department is headed by WKBW’s Digital Site Director CATLIN BOGARD, who will be using Facebook LIVE for behind the scenes of the Telethon and will stream live the entire show on WKBW.com.

Graphic Artist CHARLIE MIKOLAJCZYK created the graphic look of the Telethon under the direction of Creative Services Director SUE DOBMEIER.

Special thanks go out from Variety to the Scripps Broadcasting Company, along with Vice-President and General Manager MICHAEL NURSE for hosting the Annual Variety Telethon.  Their commitment continues throughout the year.  We thank principal Media Partner WKBW and its staff for their on-going support.

Every employee of WKBW-TV from the sales team, 7 Eyewitness News team, to members of news, production, and administration plays a role in supporting Variety’s Kids.

The Telethon will be broadcast from the Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls, New York under the supervision of KIM KUBALA.



Variety is thrilled to announce that the GOO GOO DOLLS will be making a special performance on the Telethon. The Buffalo-bred band is donating their time to perform live on the Telethon, possibly including a special song for the Celebrity Children. Band members Robby Takac and John Rzeznik will answer phones after the performance as well. Formed in Buffalo in 1996, the Goo Goo Dolls have sold over 14 million albums worldwide and have had 19 top ten singles. The Goo Goo Doll’s donation of their time to the Variety Kids Telethon is a continuation of the band’s dedication to giving back to the Western New York community and to Variety.

Once again, THE SCINTAS will provide the primary entertainment for the event. Brothers Frankie and Joe, “honorary Scinta” Peter O’Donnell, and newest addition Janien Valentine, bring refreshing wit, great music and endless talent to the highly regarded show. Having performed for hundreds of thousands of people over the years, the Scintas have become a fixture as Las Vegas’s “first family of entertainment” for the past 16 years with their signature comedy, musical prowess, and knack for spot-on impressions. Janien Valentine only adds to the dynamic of this talented group with her powerful vocals and her ability to match wits with the boys. The show spans several generations, blending classic music of all styles from musical icons such as Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston to Bruno Mars with relatable humor that leaves the audience feeling like they’re part of the family. The Scintas are currently signed in the iconic, vintage showroom at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas.

Western New York music icon TERRY BUCHWALD will once again perform on the Telethon, appearing as himself and in his publicly-acclaimed role as Elvis impersonator. Terry has recorded five albums and is currently recoding his sixth, and he was one of the first people to be inducted into the Buffalo Music Awards Hall of Achievement. Over the years, Terry has been involved in numerous charity events and community causes, and he has received recognition for his work in the community.

Further entertainment will be provided by KIMERA LATTIMORE, a singer, writer, and producer in Buffalo who has toured internationally and who strives on being a light to women and a voice of virtue for her generation; the MOUNT OLIVE CHURCH CHOIR and the TRUE BETHEL CHURCH CHOIR. KYRSTIN SPONAUGLE, winner of the Niagara-Orleans Talent Competition two years ago, will again be performing on this year’s Telethon.



As part of the company’s support of the Telethon, SAHLEN PACKING COMPANY, INC. has sponsored a “Heart Dog” promotion in area restaurants that sell Sahlen’s products. Restaurants are selling $1 paper hot dogs that customers can purchase and sign their names on to show the community that they care about Variety’s kids. Sahlen’s will match 100% of the funds generated through the promotion, as well as all donations that participating restaurants make on top of “Heart Dog” sales. Look for “Heart Dogs” on sale at your favorite hot dog vendors that sell Sahlen’s products. The promotion will run through the Telethon and is expected to become an ongoing fundraiser for years to come.

DELTA SONIC, a long-time supporter of the Telethon, has a special coupon book on sale at all of their WNY locations through April 2nd. This special book is full of great, money-saving value at Delta Sonic and is available for only $5.00. All proceeds will benefit the Telethon. The books are only available now until the Telethon.

Over 40 companies have signed on as corporate sponsors and have committed to matching public donations on the air. Variety Board President and local attorney PAUL CAMBRIA will host the phones, welcoming and thanking corporate sponsors and encourages the public to call in to double their donation dollars.

In addition to donations from corporate sponsors and from the general public, Variety has a number of community partners that commit to fundraising for the Telethon, including a number of unions, schools, and volunteer fire companies from around Western New York. 



The Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo is the primary recipient of Variety Kids Telethon Funds. Hospital President ALLEGRA JAROS will be on the air to share the story of the place where medical miracles are made every day and to talkabout the upcoming move to the Hospital’s new location. DR. MARTIN HOFFMAN from the Robert Warner Rehab Center will also be appearing on the Telethon to cover the Rehab Center’s vital work.

Funds from the Telethon also provide grants to over a dozen children’s charities in Western New York. The 2016 Recipients were: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County, Bornhava, Camp Good Days, CHC, Children’s Growth Foundation, Cradle Beach, Excalibur Leisure Skills Center, JCC of Buffalo, Music is Art, Police Athletic League, SABAH, St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, YMCA Genesee County, and the Franciscan Center.


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