Life was humming along for the Wojszynskis in early 2014. Ray had recently retired, and he and his wife were making big plans for their Golden Years. But the tempo changed that November when Ray was diagnosed with lymphoma, followed by his wife's diagnosis of ovarian cancer shortly after his cancer went into remission. The two of them drove past The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh often on their way to chemotherapy treatments at Hillman Cancer Center.
I won my battle, but she lost hers," reflects Ray. "I wondered, 'What am I supposed to do now?'"
It didn't take Ray long to find an answer. After donating his slightly used electronic drum kit to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind, followed by two brand-new 88-key electronic pianos, Ray made his first donation to The Children's Institute in January 2017.
Making a connection to these organizations inspired me to help children with multiple disabilities in any way I could," Ray explains. "I have been a drummer since I was a boy, and I know how music can make a difference in people's lives. I love music, so I decided to share it with these special kids."
In the time since his first donation, Ray has donated numerous instruments to The Children's Institute, including a drum kit, bongo drums, and a violin. Other in-kind donations have included a guitar chord learning system and amp, an iPad switch instrument interface, a SMART board, and more. He has funded Cafe Concerts for The Day School students, in addition to paying for an instructor to provide drum lessons onsite. This is just a sampling of Ray's extraordinary generosity to The Children's Institute.
Ray also has volunteered every week for the past several years at the Adult Day Health Care of the VA Pittsburgh Health System in Aspinwall. In the mornings, he plays dominoes and helps lead bingo and other card games. In the afternoons, Ray takes a cart full of donated supplies from room to room, visiting individually with the veterans and giving them items they need.
I always leave these places feeling better than when I arrived," says Ray. "My wife used to love hearing my stories when I got home from the VA. I think she would be very pleased with the choices I am making in how I am spending my time and energy to help others, especially the children. I think she would be proud of me."