Mark your calendar for The 62nd Annual Variety Kids Telethon taking place on Saturday, March 9th, 2024 from 6pm- 11pm on WGRZ, Channel 2, AND Sunday, March 10th, 2024 from 10am-8pm on WBBZ, Channel 5 and streaming online.
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For The 62nd Annual Variety Kids Telethon, we are proud to have:
- Oliver Cope, as the 2024 Celebrity Child
- Mayor Byron W. Brown, Mayor of Buffalo as Celebrity Chair
- Bill Simon, as Telethon Chair
- Rose Ann Heilemann, as Telethon Co-Chair
Celebrity Child: Oliver Cope
It is with great pleasure, we announce Oliver Cope as the Celebrity Child for The 62nd Annual Variety Kids Telethon taking place in March 2024.
Oliver was born on March 25th, 2016, and is seven years old. He lives in Blasdell, N.Y. with his mother (Amanda), father (Eric), and ten-year-old sister, Frankie!
By just age 2, when many children are littered with bumps and bruises from exploring the world, Oliver had already experienced 31 broken bones. Born with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), Oliver’s bones are extremely brittle, which causes them to break and fracture easily. Read more below on his resilient spirit and inspiring journey at Oishei Children’s Hospital (OCH) and The Variety Tent #7 Robert Warner, MD Center for Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitation.
At Amanda’s 20-week ultrasound, results came back that her baby, Oliver, had a femur that was broken. From there, Amanda had specialist appointments every month until he was born to keep an eye on his development. Doctors were initially confused as to why his femur appeared bent and broken. And then they realized his tibias were too short. And then they found that his arms were also underdeveloped. Specialists said it could be either osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a rare genetic disorder that prevents the body from building strong bones, or dwarfism.
Once Oliver was born, it was obvious he had OI. With 8 broken bones, he was in The Children’s Guild Foundation Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Oishei Children’s Hospital (OCH) for 6 weeks and had 6 more breaks in that time.
With Oliver’s condition, he can break a bone by just moving around or being held. Amanda recalls a time when he was just sitting on the couch and moved the wrong way, resulting in a sudden break. Another time, Amanda sat him up and accidentally broke a bone. And yet another time, she was putting him down for bed, scooping underneath him, and accidentally broke his collarbone and shoulder blade – it just happens no matter how careful they try to be.
Amanda estimates that Oliver has had 11 surgeries so far. His first was at a month old for a feeding tube and then a port for the infusions he was getting every two months, which since then has had to be replaced as it stopped working properly. He has had rods placed in both left and right femurs, tibias, and humeri, which were three separate surgeries. The rods in his legs have already been replaced as he grew out of them. In the foreseeable future, Oliver’s arm rods will need to be replaced, but that surgery is down the road for him and his family.
Oliver’s condition also causes brittle teeth. He has had caps placed to help protect some of his teeth and 6 other teeth removed as they were worn down. His last set of surgeries was for a new feeding tube along with a colostomy bag. Because his hips tip to the point where they almost touch, Oliver suffers from chronic constipation and a slower digestive system. He is always bloated and backed up, which is somewhat alleviated by his colostomy bag. However, his stoma for the same issue has caused him problems recently. It has prolapsed and herniated, calling for another surgery only a week after being inserted. Once that settled down, it was causing him irritation as it was too close to his skin, resulting in a third surgery.
Currently, Oliver participates in physical therapy through The Variety Tent #7 Robert Warner, MD Center for Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitation at OCH. Initially fearful of coming and participating in hands-on therapy for fear of breaking a bone, he has grown to trust his physicians and is starting to enjoy his time there. He loves the big walker, working with his therapist, and seeing friends that he has made. He is extremely excited to get started with water therapy!
Some fun facts about Oliver whose family affectionately calls “Ollie”, include his excitement for building Legos! He is the #1 fan of Kraft Mac & Cheese and loves the color Red. Sonic, the Hedgehog and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a few of his favorite things. He is truly a ray of sunshine with a smile that will light up any room.
Variety is thrilled to have Oliver Cope and his loving family a part of The 62nd Annual Variety Kids Telethon taking place Saturday, March 9th from 6 pm-11 pm on WGRZ, Channel 2, AND on Sunday, March 10th from 10 am-8 pm on WBBZ, Channel 5 and streaming online.
We look forward to sharing Ollie’s journey at The 2024 Telethon. Read Oliver’s full story.
Honorary Chair: Mayor Byron W. Brown
Byron W. Brown is Buffalo’s 62nd mayor and is the first Black mayor in the city’s history. He began his term in 2006 and in addition to being Buffalo’s first Black mayor, he is also its longest-serving chief executive. Throughout his tenure, he has successfully led Buffalo through a renaissance that has generated over 8 billion dollars in economic development investment, achieved record low unemployment, demolished nearly 8,000 abandoned and dilapidated houses, improved the City’s credit rating, oversaw the construction of 4,000 units of affordable housing, streamlined city government, launched Buffalo’s first residential lead water-service line replacement program, and invested over $100 million in city parks, playgrounds, and green spaces in historically underserved neighborhoods.
Mayor Brown was first elected to the Buffalo Common Council in 1996 to represent the Masten District. He remained a Council Member until being elected to the New York State Senate to represent Buffalo at the State Capital in 2001.
While serving in the Common Council, Brown advocated for more funding for parks in Buffalo’s historically underserved Black neighborhoods, workforce development, and minority hiring goals, anti-violence and crime prevention funding, and increased homeownership opportunities for low to moderate-income families. He continued to fight for many of those same goals while in the Senate and these issues remained a cornerstone of his agenda once he was elected Mayor.
Seeing the need for greater diversity in the private and non-profit sectors, he helped found the Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable and launched the City of Buffalo Opportunity Agenda in 2014, an initiative involving major City and regional employers who pledged to diversify their workforces and focus on equitable business development.
In addition to his leadership roles in Buffalo, Brown served as the chair of the New York State Democratic Party from 2016 through 2018 and he is currently the 2nd Vice President of the African American Mayors Association.
Telethon Chair: Bill Simon
Bill Simon, is a loyal member of the Variety Board of Directors currently serving as the Comptroller. Bill often volunteers at many Variety Fundraisers held throughout the year.
Bill lives in Tonawanda with his wife Cindy who is also a vital part of Variety Club. Bill has three sons, four darling grandchildren and a new Corgi puppy.
After forty years of Retail Management and six years in the Sales Department at M & T Bank, he retired and currently delivers Meals on Wheels four days a week.
Bill served as the co-chair of the Variety Kids Telethon in 2023 and is thrilled to be General Chairman for The 62nd Annual Variety Kids Telethon taking place in March 2024.
Telethon Co- Chair: Rose Ann Heilemann
Rose Ann is a member of the Variety Club Women. She has been helping with Variety functions since her mother joined the organization in 1971. Rose Ann has worked on fundraising and was Chairman of the School’s Committee for the 1987 and 1988 Telethons.
She has also worked alongside her mother on the Phone Committee, acting as Supervisor, for many years. She also Co-Chaired the Women’s Tea for Telethon 2023. After 37 years of teaching, Rose Ann retired from public education. She is married and has a son, daughter-in-law, and grandpuppy.
She is a volunteer at The Teacher’s Desk and lector at St. Amelia’s Roman Catholic Church. Rose Ann is looking forward to participating in the 2024 Telethon, as Co-Chairman.
Here is a little history about the Telethon:
The Variety Kids Telethon, now in its 62nd year, is the nation’s longest-running, locally-produced telethon – and its home is right here in WNY! It all started back in 1962 when Dr. Robert Warner asked Variety to help him fulfill his dream of a rehabilitation center for children with special needs. The first Annual Variety Kids Telethon raised over $80,000, and the Robert Warner Rehabilitation Center for Children with Special Needs became a reality at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
Since then, the Telethon has been a WNY treasure, all thanks to the tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers who tune in and pledge their support every year. The Telethon funds dozens of local children’s nonprofits, in addition to the Hospital, and every penny stays right here in WNY. It’s because of this we say “Variety is WNY.” We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you, WNY!
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