Canandaigua Wal-Mart Greeter Nets $200K for Children's Hospital

Grandfather Wally Straight left retirement last fall to get back to “collecting” for kids

May 08, 2008

Earlier this morning, Wally Straight, a part-time Wal-Mart greeter in Canandaigua who uses his front-of-store post to fundraise for Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, received the $4 donation that broke the $200,000 mark.

Straight said his work is largely inspired by his losing one of 13 grandchildren just before the child’s fifth birthday.

“I was changed forever. I still remember hearing the little voice on the phone pleading ‘Grandpa, help me,’” he said.

Fueled by those words, in 2002 Straight took action to help other ailing children. One dollar at a time, he began using his position at the front of the store to ask customers to consider helping, too. He credits much of his fundraising success to the supportive farm community.

“Some frequent customers keep a $1 bill – or a $5 bill – in their pocket on shopping errands just in case I’m working,” he said.

Last May, Straight won the children’s hospital’s Miracle Maker Award for Outstanding Commitment by an Individual. One month later, in June, he retired from his job at the Newark Wal-Mart – but that was short-lived. By October, he was back to work four days a week – this time, at the Canandaigua store, and averaging $200 in donations per eight-hour shift.

“Our district manager kept encouraging me to come back to work, and agreed I would – if I could keep fundraising,” Straight said.

Beyond simply inviting customers to give, Straight has risen to more daring charity challenges – including donning a painter’s suit and offering those who donate a chance to splatter him with hot dog toppings (like relish, ketchup and mustard), and dancing on the store counter with customers who donated $20 or more. Once, he even wore a ladies garter over his pants; people played along, and slipped cash beneath it.

“Wally is one of our many devoted hospital supporters who, touched by grief, find the courage to reach into their own hardship and produce something beautiful,” said Betsy Findlay, Children’s Miracle Network director for Golisano Children’s Hospital. “He is a sterling example of how one person’s passion can inspire an entire community to make a difference for children.”

Rochester’s 12 local Wal-Mart and two local Sam’s Club stores are among the hospital’s most faithful partners; in just a few months, they will close in on the $1 million gift toward the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a pledge they began in 2002.

Last year alone, their annual fundraising total surpassed $230,000; a sizeable portion was gathered in just four weeks in May (known as  “Miracle Month”), when employees rallied to raise an impressive $47,217.

For more information on how you can rally your home community and support Golisano Children’s Hospital, visit www.gchas.org or call (585) 273-5948.
Wally Straight of Newark, a part-time Wal-Mart greeter in Canandaigua, uses his front-of-store post to fundraise for Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong.

For Media Inquiries:
Becky Jones
(585)275-8490
Email Becky Jones