Wal-Mart Greeter Raises $15,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital

August 01, 2002

As a greeter at Wal-Mart in Newark, Wally Straight is charged with making the customer feel welcomed as he or she enters the store. Given his recent success during a fund-raising drive to support Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, it appears that patrons at the Wayne County Wal-Mart enjoy meeting Straight as much as he enjoys greeting them.

Politely asking for donations for the Rochester region’s only children’s hospital, Straight raised more than $13,000 during a three-month stint last winter and spring. During the last few weeks, Straight started asking again, and yesterday he topped the $15,000 mark for the year. “I simply ask, ‘Would you like to donate $1 to help our local children’s hospital?’” he says. “Most of the money raised is from $1 contributions. Some people put in fives, tens, and twenties, and the largest donation was $100.”

Born in 1928, Straight, originally from Penfield, is no stranger to raising funds for a good cause. As a teenager living in Rochester in the early 1940s, he raised a record amount locally - more than $8,000 - during the sale of war bonds. In recognition of the stellar wartime achievement, his picture was in the Democrat and Chronicle.

Straight, who worked for many years both at Eastman Kodak Co. and Rochester Gas and Electric, spends more than 30 hours a week greeting Wal-Mart customers. His commitment to the community hasn’t gone unnoticed. He received a congratulatory letter from Greg Samuelson, operations regional vice president for Wal-Mart, and kudos from his manager, Steve Szczepanski. “Wally does an outstanding job,” Szczepanski says. “This is by far the most money this store has ever raised.”

Straight, who will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with wife, Ann, in December, has three children, 11 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Now living in Newark, Straight knows the heartbreak of losing a child to illness. One of his grandchildren died of cancer nearly a decade ago while living in Illinois.

“If we can do something to help prevent another child from dying, we will have done our part,” Straight says, with a determined smile. “Would you like to donate $1 to help our local children’s hospital?”

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