Tonawanda News — Three local nonprofit organizations are turning personal tragedies into a chance to give back to the community Saturday at the second annual Harzfest benefit.
The Jim Harszlak Foundation, the Gregory Hayes Holler Memorial Fund and the American Legion Post 264, all connected by a common thread, are holding a bash at the post from 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday.
The family of Gregory Hayes Holler formed the GHH Memorial Fund after Gregory’s unexpected death in 2008 at the age of 17.
“It helps us grieve, and helps with the community ... those that are more in need,” Don Holler, Gregory’s father said.
Tragedy continued to strike the Holler family in the coming years. Gregory’s sister-in-law, Gina Holler, died in 2010 after a battle with melanoma.
And two year’s after Gina’s death, Gregory’s brother-in-law, Jim Harszlak, passed away from colon cancer.
“It seems like every two years something bad happens to our family,” 13-year-old Amanda Holler, Gina’s daughter, said.
In order to cope with their loss and give back to the area’s youth, Don and his wife, Nancy, committed themselves to raising funds to build a skate park in Ives Park in Tonawanda, honoring their son who loved skate parks and doing stunts on his BMX bike.
After years of fundraising, the Hollers raised $125,000 for the construction, and a grand opening for the park was held in May. It’s now the only park of its kind within 100 miles or more.
The GHH Memorial Fund is dipping its toes into the Harzfest benefit, an event that began last year to raise money for Jim’s medical bills, as well as he and his wife Susan Holler-Harszlak’s transportation to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill.
“With the treatments, flights, the cost was large,” Susan said. “We decided to throw a benefit.”