Inaugural golf outing to benefit A. Sandusky Free Care Fund
As Andy Sandusky walks through the revolving door at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, he seems to hear a “thank you” for every step he takes.
Just as warm as the child-friendly signage and bright colors that welcome hospital visitors are the smiles and handshakes that greet Sandusky and an ever-changing cast of friends and volunteers.
“Everybody knows me,” Sandusky said with a smile.
And they should.
Sandusky, 72, has been making annual donations to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Free Care Fund since 1973. His effort has developed into the A. Sandusky Free Care Friends Drive for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“I started with little donation cans,” Sandusky said, recalling an annual trek to the KDKA telethon for the Free Care Fund. “You used to walk up, give your name and dump in what you collected. There was never an amount because you just threw it in.”
By the mid-1980s, Sandusky's collections became too large to lump into telethon proceeds, and he began to give the hospital several thousand dollars per year through his own drive.
“It just got bigger and bigger as people found out what I was doing,” he said. “Now, we are able to give $20,000 a year.”
A. Sandusky Free Care Friends has raised more than $200,000 since its start, with a $20,000 donation logged in 2014. The organization is set to donate even more in 2015, with a successful boot collection among regional fire departments, a summer motorcycle run and an early autumn golf outing in the works.
The inaugural A. Sandusky Free Care Friends golf outing is planned for Sept. 13 at Butler's Golf Course in Elizabeth Township. The outing is scheduled for a 9 a.m. shotgun start on the lakeside course. At a cost of $100 per golfer, participants must register by Sept. 6 to participate. Sponsorship opportunities are available, as well.
Working hand-in-hand with Sandusky to develop what he hopes will become an annual golf event is deputy chair Jessica Estochin.
“This is our first golf outing to specifically benefit this fund for children whose parents struggle with paying for procedures and medical costs,” Estochin said. “We are overwhelmed with the responses we've gotten so far … and we are hoping to add to our list of sponsors and donors.”
Continuing to aid Sandusky and Estochin in their fundraising for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Free Care Fund are co-chairs Brian Kelly, Jennifer Kelly and Jana Davis, and secretary Jim Calvin. This dedicated crew plans events and helps Sandusky retrieve on-site donations in local restaurants, clubs and stores.
“I have about 40 cans or cartons out in different businesses,” Sandusky said. “I go around collecting money every day, and I send letters to organizations and individuals.”
Sandusky said the majority of his annual donation is generated in McKeesport, with about 20 percent coming from surrounding Mon Valley communities. He even gets some donations via mail from area natives who have moved as far as Hawaii.
Sandusky got to know McKeesporters young and old while on the job with the city's police force. Now a retired police officer, he worked traffic and made stops at former McKeesport Area schools, including the Centennial, George Washington, and Fifth Avenue buildings.
It was on-the-job encounters with a McKeesport youth that brought Sandusky to Children's Hospital in 1973.
An Irwin Street boy injured himself by running through a glass door. Sandusky rushed the boy to McKeesport Hospital, where his bleeding was stopped. Then, he transported the boy to Children's.
“It hit me personally,” Sandusky recalled. “I walked through that ICU, and I just felt like there had to be more I could do. I went home thinking about what I could do to help those children, and to this day, that feeling is still with me. It's something I can't forget.”
Just as Sandusky can't forget his new calling in life, he said he can't forget to thank those who have made his effort possible.
“I want to thank each and every one who makes a donation … to keep smiles on children's faces at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh,” Sandusky said.
For more information about the A. Sandusky Free Care Friends Drive or to register for the inaugural golf outing, call 412-916-8670. Donations can be mailed to 3416 Grover Ave., McKeesport 15132.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.