Local groups raise money, make donations

WEIRTON – Several area groups made donations to the Weirton Boys and Girls Club, Never Alone West Virginia and the Weirton United Way recently.

Funds raised through the Aaron Davies-Mike Smoljanovich Memorial Golf Tournament were donated to both groups.

“On the behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, I want to thank everyone for their kindness and generosity,” said George Vargo, executive director. “What we are trying to do here is provide a safe place for these kids to have fun and learn. This is their hang out, this is their place.”

Vargo said the club has around 100 members, with approximately 20 to 30 children utilizing the club each afternoon. Many of them stay until 6 p.m., with parents stopping in frequently to check in.

“A lot of them, this is their first stop after the bus stop,” said Vargo.

He also noted that Franciscan University of Steubenville students assist with mentoring, tutoring and the club’s reading program.

“Your caring and generosity is why I stay in this business,” said Vargo.

He noted some of the children the club serves struggle with societal problems and creating a safe space for them is important.

Vargo spoke about some of the activities the club holds that are supported by the community, including a fun run and Christmas party.

Vargo is assisted by Ashley Birkhimer, program coordinator, who took over after long-time coordinator Anna Jackson passed away.

“We miss her,” said Vargo. “She was the heart of this place for a long time.”

Board President thanked those making donations to the club.

“Thank you, we will put it to good use,” he said. “We appreciate you thinking of us.”

Darlene Sperlazza-Anthony spoke about founding a Bible-study group after learning her sister had stage four breast cancer. The non-denominational group, made up of women from several different area churches, continues to meet to this day. The group, which draws anywhere from three to 12 women each week, makes weekly donations that are collected and donated to a deserving local charity.

“It’s not about us,” she said. “It’s about the children. God is using us to help the children.”

Chip Davies and Connie Davies spoke about raising money in honor of their son, Aaron, and granting a scholarship to a basketball player, as Aaron had especially loved basketball. The couple, with the help of memorial fund volunteers, have also hosted memorial blood drives and had a memorial park built on Terrace Heights.

The couple also praised Jason Smoljanovich for the inception of the Aaron Davies-Mike Smoljanovich Memorial Golf Tournament, which also raises money for deserving local charities. Among groups the memorial fund and tournament has supported include Never Alone, Make-a-Wish West Virginia, the Stewart family, Athena’s Closet, The Lighthouse and Kelsey’s Christmas Project.

Never Alone supports those dealing with addiction and offers support to those whose loved ones suffer from addiction. Make-a-Wish grants one-of-a-kind wishes to children suffering from serious illness. Athena’s Closet helps defray costs associated with the treatment of cancer that aren’t covered by insurance. The Lighthouse is a domestic violence shelter. Kelsey’s Christmas Project collects and distributes gifts, blankets, food and clothing to children and staff at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in memory of former Children’s oncology patient Kristin Andrews, directed by her sister, Kelsey.