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Local wrestling referee will hold donation drive for cancer foundation

UWA Elite Wrestler Kyle Winant, left, also known as KTB, and referee Ryan Torok after a match. They will team up for a wrestling fundraiser on Aug. 4 to benefit The Valerie Fund's Camp Happy Times.PHOTO COURTESY OF DM IMAGES AND MORE
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UWA Elite Wrestler Kyle Winant, left, also known as KTB, and referee Ryan Torok after a match. They will team up for a wrestling fundraiser on Aug. 4 to benefit The Valerie Fund's Camp Happy Times.PHOTO COURTESY OF DM IMAGES AND MORE

SOUTH RIVER–While delivering some live ground-and-pound action to residents, professional wrestling company UWA Elite will be sponsoring a supply drive for The Valerie Fund.

UWA Elite referee Ryan Torok, who is a cancer survivor, organized this year’s supply drive to provide supplies for children attending The Valerie Fund’s summer camp, Camp Happy Times.

“The Valerie Fund saved my life and being cancer-free since seven years old, I wanted to give back to [the organization] that did so much for me,” Torok said.

The Valerie Fund is a non-profit organization that helps treat children who have been diagnosed with cancer. The organization has medical centers throughout New Jersey, New York and the Philadephia metro area, according to Torok.

For more than 35 years, The Valerie Fund has operated Camp Happy Times, a one-week overnight camp experience for any child ages five to 21 who has or had cancer, regardless of where they are treated. The Valerie Fund offers the camp free of charge, which includes transportation, meals and on-site medical care. More than 150 children attend Camp Happy Times each summer. It is located at the 200-acre Tyler Hill Camp in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, according to Torok.

The supply drive will take place during UWA’s iWrestle event at 6 p.m. on Aug. 4 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 90 Leonardine Ave. in South River. The show will start at 6:30 p.m.

According to Torok, requested donations include toothpaste, toothbrushes, blankets, sunscreen, socks, pillows, sneakers, flip-flops, bedding, hand towels, beach towels, shower caddies, combs, brushes, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, bug repellant, lip balm, nail clippers, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors, soap, soap carriers, tissues, flashlights, spare batteries, laundry bags, reusable water bottles and canteens.

“[Residents] can show up to donate items, but we would love for all to be part of another historic event for The Valerie Fund,” Torok said.

Having started wrestling at age 18, the Sayreville native said he has worked for UWA for 10 years.

“From being involved in wrestling itself, my dream is to work for the WWE,” Torok said. “By doing this drive it gives back to the kids battling cancer while also making an impact on the community.”

After being diagnosed with leukemia at age of four, Torok said his parents took him to The Valerie Fund Center located at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center where he began chemotherapy at age seven.

“My family got me into wrestling. My doctor told me when I was sick that I had ‘bad guys’ in me, like WWE’s Yokozuna and Andre The Giant. My chemotherapy was Hulk Hogan. It made me understand what I was going through at the time. It has and always will be a part of my life,” Torok said.

While battling cancer, Torok said The Valerie Fund would provide tickets for his family to take him to special events. He also attended Camp Happy Times.

Last year, Torok said he organized a toy drive where residents donated toys that were brought to The Valerie Funds’ home office in Maplewood, New Jersey.

“I personally dropped off all 100-plus toys that could barely fit in my car,” Torok said.

UWA wrestler Kyle Winant has helped Torok organize this year’s donation drive and has helped organized last year’s toy drive. Torok said he and Winant have been friends for more than 10 years and have traveled up and down the East Coast to master their craft of pro wrestling.

Winant said he has been wrestling professionally for 14 years and has been with UWA for nine years.

“I see how much [The Valerie Fund] helped him in his life, so by helping it’s a nice way to help [Torok] because he works so hard while giving back to The Valerie Fund,” Winant said.

Using their wrestling platform to prompt their careers, Torok said Winant and he also use their platforms to raise awareness about The Valerie Fund.

Winant said he and Torok organize a fundraiser on behalf of The Valerie Fund once a year but they want to it more often.

If residents are unable to attend the donation drive, Torok said residents can support The Valerie Fund by setting up their own fundraiser, volunteering at one of its events and/or by visiting the organization’s website.

For more information about The Valerie Fund, visit www.thevaleriefund.org/about/.

To purchase a ticket for UWA’s upcoming wrestling event, visit www.uwaelite.com/live-events.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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