PUNXSUTAWNEY — In what has become a Punxsy holiday tradition — right up there with snowflake lights and the Barclay Square Christmas tree — local residents’ donations again topped those from last year during the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s annual “Light Up a Child’s Life” campaign.
As of early Friday evening, the tally for the week-long 2011 campaign was $79,447.86, topping the 2010 total of $73,285.
“I am humbled and eternally grateful to the Punxsy community and its citizens for loving Make-A-Wish and having the passion for Make-A-Wish that we as a staff do,” said Pam Miller, regional director for the Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia chapter of the foundation.
Contributions from this week will help Make-A-Wish grant about 23 wishes in 2012 for children battling life-threatening illnesses. The average cost of a wish is about $3,400.
Friday’s final say saw individuals such as Ty Caylor — who, for the third year in a row, made his donation completely in quarters — helping reach the final tally at County Market and the lobby of the Pantall Hotel.
Caylor, age six, of Smicksburg, raised $1,605 in quarters, and presented his donation with his riding tractor and wagon at County Market.
Also this week, SS.C.D. employee Dan Prutznal put his passion for the Green Bay Packers on the back burner — if only momentarily — to challenge SS.C.D. students: For every $25 they raised, he would don one piece of Pittsburgh Steelers apparel. The students raised $200.
Elsewhere throughout the campaign, Miller and her staff — regional office assistant Kayla Danch and Wish assistants Polly Mills and Patti Lellock — saw contributions from individuals, businesses and groups at Ragley’s True Value Hardware, Fox’s Pizza Den, the Punxsy Area Middle and High Schools and Mulberry Square Elder Care & Rehabilitation Center.
“They believe in the magic of a wish,” Miller said of the donors, far and wide. “They believe in the hope, strength and joy for kids in need.”
While the economy may have improved from last year, it’s still not in the clear just yet. But despite what the economy does, it never stops the Punxsy community from supporting its favorite cause, Miller said.
“The economy is not stopping the community, whether people donate $5, $10, $20 or $200,” she said.
This year saw the Punxsy office’s four-member staff working together, but scattered a bit.
Miller credited Danch for setting the stage for the 2011 campaign despite the fact she was expecting a baby. Miller and Mills were ready to step in, and Danch’s daughter, Capri Weyand, was born Dec. 4.
Patti Lellock, the fourth member of the Make-A-Wish staff in Punxsy, has battled Devic’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder, for the past four years, but it hasn’t kept her down.
Lellock, who has worked for the Punxsy office for more than 10 years, made two appearances during this week’s campaign, and proceeds from her new book, “Illuminated: A Collection of Photographs & Writings,” will go to Make-A-Wish.
Dr. Joseph Kernich, who again helped guide the on-air WPXZ-FM coverage this week, said of his 20 years helping the foundation, “It’s been successes, enlightenment and fulfillment in the ability to reach out to kids in need. I look forward to the next 20.”