By Lauren Zaepfel
North Tonawanda's Walgreens will host its biggest Customer Appreciation Day today in an effort to raise funds for the company's Red Nose Day campaign, which focuses on supporting charities that assist children in poverty.
The event will take place outside the store at 1066 Payne Ave.
Money raised will help fund programs both in the U.S. and internationally.
Walgreens Assistant Store Manager Michelle Vago of the Town of Niagara organized the event with Store Manager Rob Grosskopf of Wheatfield and their team members.
Although Walgreens stores across the nation are selling red nose memorabilia for donations, Vago said they decided to "make this thing bigger and better" and "give back to the community" to raise money.
"Other Walgreens (stores) - obviously they're selling the red nose and everything, but we just took it higher and decided to put our Customer Appreciation Day with it and make it more like a little ... carnival," Vago said.
"It's just really to get the red nose name out ... and get support from the community for the organizations that we're raising money for," said Grosskopf.
He added, "We did a smaller version of it last year, but Michele kind of took everything to the extreme. So it's this big event. It's great. It really is."
Besides just giving away hot dogs, like last year, Vago was able to enlist other vendors to donate their products to the event. Clowns from Niagara Clown Ally will be on hand for entertainment and a basket raffle and pie-in-the face contest will also be available based on donations.
"Nothing comes to us," Vago said. "It's all going to charity."
Vago also worked with the city's fire and police departments to contribute to the event.
The City of North Tonawanda Fire Department will bring a fire truck to the event and the North Tonawanda Police Department will bring along some of its K-9s.
"I know (the children) enjoy fire trucks and police," Vago said. "So I just thought it would be kind of a nice thing to not only have Walgreens do a (day) of appreciation, but also for them to kind of be involved with it, as well, so they're out in the community and can meet people in our community."
"Our job is based on taking care of the community," said Glenn Richau, assistant to the fire chief and fire prevention. "And any time that we could help out with anything like this, especially for children, we got a soft spot in our heart for children, we're more than happy to come out and do that."
Both Vago and Grosskopf said the event is open to those across Western New York, including the Niagara-Wheatfield area. "We draw a lot of people from out there to our store," Grosskopf said. "So a lot of them will come and experience what's going on here, as well."
Vago said this event will contribute to the campaign, which's biggest component is the "Red Nose Day" telecast. The NBC special includes music and comedy performances from famous artists. Last year's "Red Nose Day" special raised more than $23 million.
Created by Oscar nominee and Emmy Award-winning writer-director Richard Curtis, ("Love Actually," "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill"), the idea of Red Nose Day was built upon the foundation that the power of entertainment and celebrities can help raise money and awareness of poverty to save and change millions of lives
The charities for 2016 include Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Charity: Water, Children's Health Fund, Covenant House, Feeding America, Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), The Global Fund, National Council of La Raza, National Urban Leaugue, OXFAM America and Save the Children.
For more information, visit www.rednoseday.org.