by John BINDER
Theres a whirlwind of activity in the Buffalo State College Sports Arena. A controlled chaos that consists of hundreds of families, moms and dads with their children, executives in their shorts, kids on bikes, babies in strollers...all getting ready to do one thing...WalkAmerica! The scene breeds commotion and excitement, but there is still something calm and comforting within the face of each person...it just feels like home. Each year, these same people gather to show their support, bring some new faces and help raise awareness to saving babies in our communities.
This annual April event is quite a production and co-producing the communications and media aspects of this years show is Dennis Schrader. Dennis is the State Director of Communications for the Upstate New York Chapter of the March of Dimes...say that three times fast. He travels throughout Upstate New York helping each of four divisions connect with their local media and build relationships, in an effort to boost mission awareness and generate volunteer and monetary support for the March of Dimes. Through their innovative and targeted community programs, as well as funding grass roots research, since 1938, the March of Dimes has helped save millions of babies from death or disability.
Much of Denniss life, both personal and professional, can be equated to the uncertainty of a typical Buffalo winter. Growing up within the small town confines of Batavia, New York fueled his hunger for a bigger city feeling. But that desire would not be satiated until years later. As a life-long Buffalo Sabres fan, Dennis decided to attend Erie Community College in Western New York...inching ever closer to the Queen City.
A transfer to Oswego State College was the next step toward the Baccalaureate. The Communications Program was rated as the best in the state and the allure of the new challenge was too great to be denied. Plus, the Guinness Book sunsets were an awesome way to meet women...a huge priority back then.
Two years later puts a degreed Dennis in New York City, looking for a job in public relations. It was like being in every song or every movie that has ever been made...never had Dennis felt more ALIVE...but never more alone. He met frequently with former Oswego Alumni and ESPN Broadcaster Steve Levy who set-up many interviews in New York. What this great training ground lacked was that hometown connection that was only available back in Western New York. After taking a quick bite out of the Big Apple, the stage was now set to come back home and take Buffalo by storm.
Okay, so the storm was more like scattered flurries at first. Finding a position in Buffalo took a little longer than Dennis anticipated. However, while working as a substitute teacher at Attica High School during his job search, Dennis met his future wife, Nikki. Now, the feeling of being ALIVE, came from being with a person...not a city. Dennis began his career at an advertising agency in Buffalo that year and 18 months later, Dennis and Nikki were married. The ad agency didnt work out...but the marriage did.
As the result of a blind ad, which turned into an incredible opportunity, Dennis found himself in Rochester. Working for the local food bank, Dennis was able to carve a niche and create a position that was much needed at the time. As the Community Relations and Special Events Coordinator, Dennis was afforded many opportunities to work with hundreds of local businesses, the local media and local sports teams. Three plus years helped cultivate FOODLINKs future and heightened hunger awareness to unprecedented levels in Rochester. Now, it was time for a new challenge and besides, the Sabres were in the playoffs again.
Bring in the March of Dimes, where Dennis is preparing for WalkAmerica amidst hundreds of families, all getting ready to do one thing... WalkAmerica! This year, the calm and comfort will not be reflected in the face of each person, but in the eyes of his wife Nikki and the knowledge that theyll be bringing their first baby home in May, to a community that cares so much about its children. Its good to be back home!
John Binder is a freelance writer.
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