By Michael DePietro
The North Tonawanda High School Wall of Fame Project – a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing both the high school's athletic and fine arts walls of fame – is holding a “Party Like a Lumberjack” celebration/fundraising event from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, May 2, at Brownies Sports Bar, 775 Oliver St.
The cost is $25 per ticket, which provides entrance to the event, two drink tickets (domestic beers or mixed drink) and one appetizer from a list of three options. Brownies will also offer regular food menu items and full bar service. Masks will be required when patrons are not at the bar or their table. A limit of 75 total tickets will be available.
The event will feature a basket raffle with prizes donated by local sponsors. Only event attendees will be able to win prizes. Some basket offerings include: A Thurman Thomas autographed ball; a free night stay at Downs Resort Hotel (Batavia Downs); a $50 gift card for dinner and other prizes (Remington’s); a basket full of Platter's chocolates and specialty items; a golf ball basket, including NT logo golf balls and other prizes (OnCore Golf); and gift cards to various NT restaurants.
To purchase tickets, contact Keith at 716-531-0436; John at 716-529-7722; or email [email protected].
While the event will raise money for phase 2 of the NTHS WOF project, it's also a celebration of fundraising efforts thus far. Last fall, the group raised more than $34,000 to complete phase 1 of the project. The first phase saw the installation of specially printed UV-resistant window coverings, each designed to honor specific groups from the school's athletic and fine arts programs. It also featured the installation of a state-of-the-art touchscreen panel that provides an interactive way to learn about athletic and fine arts inductees (who each have their own page featuring photographs, biographies and stats).
Now in the midst of phase 2, the group is celebrating the ahead-of-schedule arrival of the brand new "Lumberjack Wall" – an impressive 4-foot-by-6-foot, LED-backlit lumberjack logo seated on beautifully stained reclaimed wood panels, centered in the NT Athletic Wall of Fame hallway.
The organization's founder, John Baran, said the wall was initially going to be installed in three stages, but one supporter’s very generous donation of over $4,000 helped fast-track the installation. Baran says the whole display cost $17,000 in total – all raised through donations.
“I am very pleased, it has definitely exceeded my expectations,” Baran says. “As far as how the kids have responded, first of all, (they say) it looks really cool. Secondly, we've been noticing quite a bit of activity on Facebook where seniors – like most recently, the girls volleyball team after their final match … they did senior days. So, they had photos, and most that were taken were in front of the installation. We’re so thrilled to see it.”
As phase 2 continues, the group aims to install a similar wall piece along the Fine Arts Wall of Fame, featuring the department’s shield emblem. Additionally, the group wants to repurpose and update existing trophy cases for better display; create a hanging art gallery to student artists; and create a display case to better showcase the school’s state championship plaques.
According to its website, the WOF project is meant to, "Inspire current NTHS students to get involved and participate by seeing the rich history and heritage of previous generations of NTHS students just like them who have achieved success.”
The project was born after Baran noticed the WOFs were deteriorating and sought to honor the Lumberjacks – coaches, players, distinguished artists, etc., who had done so much to make NTHS a school worth being proud of.
Sadly, the Lumberjack community has had to deal with the recent deaths of a pair of beloved former NTHS football coaches: Charles “Chuck” Ramsay and Frank “Fran” Burke.
The outpouring of sorrow and words of support from former alumni on the WOF project Facebook page demonstrates just how deeply engrained the Lumberjack tradition is. In a way, their passing underscores the importance of what the project seeks to accomplish: Preserving the legacies of those who came before.
Baran wishes to extend thanks to committee members, all NT alumni: Keith Miranto, Chet Wiech, Myron Annis, Rosie DeMart, Angela Donato Johnson, John Montesanti and retired teacher and baseball coach John Chiarmonte.
“Without their tireless contributions of time and money, we’d not gotten anything done!” he says.
Additionally, he thanks Chuck and Liz Insalaco, two lifelong NT residents who, “Have made a huge difference, raising over $4,000 for the project while raising money for the NT Oliver Street Food Bank in parallel. I am blessed to have all of these people as dear friends.”
For those who can’t attend the event, donations can be made via the WOF website.
Additionally, Jamie’s Ice Cream, located at 1401 Nash Road, is selling a “Lumberjack” sundae featuring vanilla custard, hot fudge, caramel and pretzel rod “logs” to represent the Lumber City’s history. The sundae is available for $5.95 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the WOF project.
For more information about the project, visit www.nthswof.com.