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La Liga de Las Americas

Findlay fundraising event raises $80,000 to aid Central American children


By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent


All the shiny new cars were back on the floor in the showroom of Findlay Ford Lincoln-Mercury Monday morning. There were only a few hanging decorations left to remind a visitor that this had been the site of a successful weekend gala, which raised nearly $80,000 to aid Central American children.


The Children’s Wishing Star gala is the annual fundraising event for the non-profit organization which helps children in El Salvador and neighboring Central American countries.  Children’s Wishing Star was founded ten years ago by Stan and Pat Kujawa, the owners of Findlay Ford Lincoln-Mercury. The Kujawas turned the spectacular showroom into a festive party with a Latino flair.

   Evelyn de Quintanilla holds Ana Gabriela Diehl, the most recent of the ten children from El Salvador to be adopted by a Findlay, Ohio family, through the efforts of Children’s Wishing Star.
     She is flanked by María Mercedes de Cruz, Pat and Stan Kujawa, founders of the program, and Carolina Paniagua de Ostos. 
     The three women from El Salvador are aides to First Lady Ana Ligia de Saca, who, because of an injury, was unable to attend the March 4 fundraiser at the Kujawa’s Findlay Ford Lincoln-Mercury.
     The Kujawas organized Children’s Wishing Star after they adopted the first of two children from El Salvador ten years ago—photo by N.C. Abrams.


The evening got off to a great start Saturday with a $25,000 donation from the organization’s sponsors. Another $10,000 came from an anonymous donor in New Jersey who asked that the donation be split evenly between the Nutrition for Niños program and the children’s home operated by Children’s Wishing Star in San Salvador. The balance was raised by the silent and live auction at the event.


The First Lady of El Salvador, Ana Ligia Mixco Sol de Saca, had planned to fly into Findlay to personally thank Children’s Wishing Star for their support.  About a week before the event, she injured her leg in an accident and was unable to attend. However, she sent three members of her office staff from the Secretaria Nacional de la Familia:  Evelyn de Quintanilla, María Mercedes de Cruz, and Carolina Paniagua de Ostos.


The three were accompanied to Findlay by Alba Nubia Arevalo, the director of the Children’s Wishing Star home in San Salvador, who read a message from the First Lady.


Nearly 2,000 children from across Central America have stayed at the facility, which is adjacent to the Hospital Nacional de Niños, the 300-bed Benjamin Bloom Hospital. Children’s Wishing Star pays the government of El Salvador $1 a year for the lease of the property.


Guests at the gala were treated to a buffet meal ranging from delicious appetizers through exquisite roast beef and sumptuous desserts—all prepared under the direction of Executive Chef Reggie Baugh from the Heritage/ McClellan Senior Living complex.  Baugh, one of the first African-Americans to host their own television cooking show, delighted viewers for years on “Cooking with Chef Reggie” on Lima, Ohio’s Channel 47.


Residents of Findlay have opened their hearts as well as their pocketbooks and wallets to Children’s Wishing Star. All ten of the children adopted from El Salvador and now being raised in Findlay were presented on stage. They ranged from Caroline and Annie Kujawa through little Ana Gabriella Diehl.


Entertainment was provided by Pantasia, a Findlay High School musical entourage. Also performing was talented vocalist Nicolás. Those who may have seen him perform at Bowling Green’s Black Swamp Festival know him as Nick de la Torre. He is the son of Cuban-American activist and community leader Esther García-Tio of Bowling Green.


Nicolas was accompanied by Elena Moore on violin and Dallas Black on guitar. Among the musical numbers he performed was a song Moore wrote for El Salvador’s First Lady.


Nicolás, who sings in Spanish, Italian and English, is auditioning in Orlando, Florida in June for several major record label executives.  He plays piano and guitar, and recently wrote and performed a requiem for a fellow Bowling Green High School student who committed suicide. Four hundred people attended the performance, which featured orchestral and choir members from Bowling Green State University and the community.





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