The Children's Institute Blog

Donor Profile: ​Ray Wojszynski

Posted: Aug 15, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Photograph of Ray Wojszynski Volunteering At The VA HospitalRay Wojszynski’s life as a donor and an aspiring drummer are inextricably linked.

He’s been drumming on and off since his youth – he later sold his first drum kit to a Westinghouse employee who gave him the lead that ultimately lead to a job at the company he held for 32 years. But the real synergy started in 2015, after he underwent chemotherapy for lymphoma and, looking for a past-time, was inquiring about upgrading a four-year-old electronic drum kit.

“Instead of selling it or trading it in for a new set, I donated it to the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children,” Ray said. “Then, later, I thought maybe they could use something else. I met Roger Thomas, their music director, at ‘N’ Stuff in Blawnox and said, ‘Pick whatever you want.’” Thomas picked two, 88-key electric pianos, with stands and benches.

Ray’s first donation to The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh was uncharacteristic, a transport chair he bought for his wife, who was battling ovarian cancer, to use at the polls for the U.S. presidential election. She never used it, and died three days before their 30th wedding anniversary in November 2016.

Every donation to The Children’s Institute since then has centered around music.

He just began giving in January and, while he’s made significant contributions, the impact is priceless. He has donated in-kind gifts – a violin, a special IPad switch for interface with instruments, a guitar chord learning system, a guitar amp, and bongo drums. He’s paying the salary of a teacher who will provide drum lessons to students. And he’s funded two Café Concerts for Day School students and one full year of music therapy, extending to June 2018.

“You see a lot of children with special needs, with multiple disabilities – I want to do something to make a difference in their lives and music can make that difference,” Ray said. “I’m happy to do it.”

He plays drums in a makeshift studio in his Plum house. And maybe soon at a church near you. His church’s organist asked him to sit in behind the kit during a rehearsal session.

“I said, ‘I could do that, I could keep the beat!’” he laughed. “So my drum teacher said, ‘You should absolutely do that, 100 percent.’ I’m thinking about it.”

In the meantime, he’s keeping busy as a donor and volunteer. In addition to supporting The Children’s Institute, the School for Blind Children, St. Anthony’s Schools and others, he volunteers every week at the VA Hospital in Aspinwall, playing dominoes with veterans and tending to the small – but necessary – details of their lives.

“I go over and I have a supply cart filled with donated supplies,” Ray said. “I take that room to room. And I try to give them what they need. And, if the cart doesn’t have it, I’ll buy it and donate it.”

He’s looking for more volunteer opportunities. And, as ever, there are the drums.

“My whole goal with playing drums is independence – doing something different with all four limbs,” he said. “It’s something that’s a lifelong thing.”

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