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Accessible arts performances are good for everyone, says FISA Foundation

The FISA Foundation's multi-year effort to expand arts access for people with disabilities is having a real impact, according to a new report compiled by the organization.
 
"While we’ve come a long way in changing attitudes and promoting inclusion of people with disabilities," says Kristy Trautmann, FISA's executive director, "it is still very upsetting how many organizations and individuals consider accessibility as an afterthought, if they think about it at all. Too often the focus of accessibility planning is still about meeting the code," – doing only what the Americans with Disabilities Act requires – "as if to communicate that we would have done less if we could have."
 
To get past that way of thinking, FISA has spent the last five years bringing arts groups to a deeper understanding of how arts accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but it's good for business as well. The report reviews the changes arts groups can make in their performances and presentations, from more accessible seating to sign-language interpretation, assistive listening devices, large-print programs, captioning and "touch tours." More than that, it shows how local arts groups have benefited from changing their practices, with City Theatre and Pittsburgh Opera leading the charge.
 
FISA teamed with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council to help local arts groups discover low-cost accessibility aids. They held accessibility workshops for the groups and involved those with disabilities in assessing needs, building an audience and creating and staging disability-focused art pieces.
 
"It’s inspiring to see how many arts managers are now champions of accessibility and inclusion," says Trautmann. "They are driving this agenda because they deeply believe in it. We can all learn a lot from their example.
 
"One of the challenges is that many people who could benefit from these efforts don’t think of themselves as disabled," she adds. "They just know their hearing or vision 'isn’t what it used to be.' Many people used to love the arts but have reluctantly stopped purchasing tickets because it stopped being enjoyable. We want them to know that it’s time to come back and try again."
 
Rona Nesbit, executive vice president of the Cultural Trust, notes that "adding diversity to our audiences enhances everyone's experience. We believe that half of the pleasure of artistic engagement is being able to experience it with others."
 
And other cities' arts groups are taking notice, she adds: Representatives from the Cleveland Playhouse attended the recent autism-friendly performance of "The Lion King." The Trust also has received a request to serve as a consultant for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as well as other arts groups around the country.
 
"We are up front about the fact that this is a work in progress," says Trautmann. "The most important thing any community member can do is to give feedback. If you have a good experience – if something works for you – let the arts organizations know. And if you see an opportunity for something to be better – let them know that too."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Kristy Trautmann, FISA Foundation; Rona Nesbit, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Clean Air Dash shows athletes, others how to push for pollution solution

"Even the healthiest people – athletes – can be affected by poor air quality," says Rachel Filippini, executive director of GASP, the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Educating athletes and everyone else about air-quality issues, and what they can do to improve them, formed the impetus for GASP's first Clean Air Dash and Festival on Oct. 19 in the South Side Riverfront Park. It's a 5K run along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, with a festival featuring the Venture Outdoors climbing wall, yoga demonstrations, pumpkin painting and a Pittsburgh Passion obstacle course.
 
Also supporting the Clean Air Dash is the local Breathe Project coalition, funded by the Heinz Endowments.
 
Carnegie Mellon University’s mobile laboratory, dubbed Community Health: Air Pollution in Pittsburgh or CHAPP, will make its debut at the event. "It's a way of them taking a very sophisticated laboratory out into the community," explains Filippini. "Air quality has been improving over the years but we still have high levels of fine particulates, ground-level ozone and hazardous air pollutants."
 
Fine particulates come from diesel vehicles as well as from coal-fired power plants, coke-making facilities and wood burning. "They are still a significant problem – probably of greatest concern because they are so pervasive and come from so many sources and are still relatively high when compared to other parts of the country. And they are linked to so many health concerns," including asthma and other respiratory problems, as well as strokes and heart attacks.
 
Runners, for instance, can minimize their exposure to pollution by enjoying their sport far from main thoroughfares and rush hours, as well as earlier in the day. And everyone can become an air-quality champion, she adds, by writing letters about pollution solutions to their elected officials, attending hearings on environmental issues, and changing their behavior – from riding to walking, or from private to public transportation.
 
"There is a lot to do in achieving cleaner air," Filipinni concludes, "and we all have a role to play achieving that goal."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rachel Filippini, GASP

Even "accidental techies" can benefit from TechNow

Even  “accidental techies" can get a lot out of this year's TechNow conference, says Johna Lingelbach, network administrator for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. She'll be presenting at the session "BYOD OMG" ("D" stands for "device").
 
"Year after year, people of varying skill level and work experience get together to share ideas," she says. "There is a strong comfort level of networking with all."
 
Run by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, this year's conference takes place Oct. 24 at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry Township and offers nonprofits the latest in tech trends and information.
 
Keynote speaker for this 10th annual conference is Gavin Clabaugh, vice president of information services at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Clabaugh is a founding member of the board of Aspiration, which develops and funds IT solutions for nonprofits. The day also offers sessions on "Looking Great Everywhere:  Responsive Web Design for Nonprofits," "#EverywhereAllTheTime: Integrating Technology Tools …" and "Impress Funders While Making Your Mission and Message Clear."
 
"Not only will you learn what's on the cutting edge of nonprofit technology, you'll also network with some great thought leaders," says Craig Grella, executive director of OrgSpring and one of the "Looking Great Everywhere" presenters. "I've made numerous connections at TechNow, many of whom became my close friends and business partners."
 
"Our goal," concludes Cindy Leonard, consulting team leader for the Bayer Center "is to inspire nonprofits to think about all the different ways that technology affects our missions and how it can be leveraged successfully to enhance operations and program outcomes."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cindy Leonard, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

What do SNL, Orange is the New Black and Louie Anderson have in common?

The director of "Saturday Night Live," a writer on "Orange is the New Black" and comedian Louie Anderson, whose animated series Life With Louie earned Emmys in the 1990s, all have Pittsburgh connections, but more importantly they are coming to the city to speak as part of the new Steeltown Spotlight Series.
 
Steeltown Entertainment Project is all about connecting Pittsburgh to the entertainment industry, says President and CEO Carl Kurlander: "How many projects, how many people, can we bring back here and connect with people here and build an industry?"
 
Spotlight will feature the stories of people who made it from here to there – to Hollywood, of course. And the two towns now have something more in common, Kurlander says: "Imagine a town that for 100 years made the same product. Then, overnight, technology changed the product. Am I talking about Pittsburgh and the steel industry in 1980 or am I talking about Hollywood today?" The Netflix model of series distribution – all at once, for watching at any pace – "has changed everything" in Hollywood, he says.
 
Pittsburgh native Lauren Morelli, who writes for the Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black," opens the Spotlight program on Oct. 15 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Frick Fine Arts Building. She started her career as a dancer, then began reviewing dance performances, branching into writing short stories before joining the writer's room at "Orange."
 
Kurlander points to Morelli as one of the new breed of television creators. Today, she helps run "Orange" episodes filmed in New York and is part of a mostly female writing team.
 
Louie Anderson will appear on Oct. 22 for an event co-sponsored by the Toonseum, including a chance for audience members to have episodes from their lives turned into cartoon storyboards. Anderson will be joined by his series co-creator Matthew O’Callaghan and Joe Wos, head of the Toonseum.
 
Animation, says Kurlander, is not only a popular entertainment format, "but it produces a lot of jobs."
 
Pitcairn-raised Don Roy King, director of SNL for the past eight years, will speak this spring – on a date to be determined. "SNL, everyone knows, nurtures talent – and they go on to be legends," Kurlander notes. "Pittsburgh's starting to have a scene here … and Don is going to talk about not only directing live television but incubating talent."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Carl Kurlander, Steeltown Entertainment Project

Why does S. Korea fear ceiling fans? WorldQuest trivia contest has the answers

Oct. 21 marks the 10th annual WorldQuest International Trivia Competition, offered by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and "every year presents its own challenges in terms of asking questions that are relevant," says Dan Law, program officer for public policy programming for the Council. "It's not just, 'Name that official,' or 'Name that flag.'"
 
You'll have to get a team together and enter the contest, which raises funds for Council programs, to find out why South Koreans place signs near ceiling fans, warning its citizens not to sleep beneath a spinning one.
 
"We work very hard at bringing the world to Pittsburgh and bringing Pittsburgh to the world," he says; Council programs include seminars, video conferences and policy discussions for students, as well as breakfast briefings and weekly radio programs for adults in the community, featuring ambassadors, academics, journalists and other international figures.
           
WorldQuest has become "not just a trivia competition but an energetic show" at the Cabaret Theatre in the Cultural District downtown, attracting a cross-section of Pittsburgh teams of university students, law firms, financial institutions and nonprofits.
 
The five rounds of question categories include the year in review, where in the world, Pittsburgh and the world, international who's who and lost in translation, which Law describes as "interesting or even bizarre cultural quirks.
 
"This is one of the most challenging rounds but one of the funniest," he adds.
 
Each member of the winning team receives $150, while second- and third-prize winners get baskets of local show tickets, restaurant gift certificates and Pittsburgh memorabilia. Tops among the silent auction items is $2,000 worth of Delta Sky Miles.
 
The evening will be hosted by WTAE’s Sally Wiggin and 90.5 WESA’s Paul Guggenheimer, host of Essential Pittsburgh.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dan Law, World Affairs Council

Students all over Pittsburgh design mobile apps at Winchester Thurston's App Lab

Mobile App Lab, Winchester Thurston's after-school app-designing class, has now expanded to allow high-school students from any school in the area to participate.
 
The program began in 2010 at the Shadyside school and focuses on teaching programming for mobile devices. "Many students have them and, if they don't, they see them in action," says program head David Nassar. "It's a real and tangible use of computer science today. All businesses are trying to create an app for their business. Even poets are creating poetry apps. Computer science is pervasive and I like to show the students that."
 
Students, who come from as close as Pittsburgh Obama or as far away as Quaker Valley and Mars, are expected to bring their knowledge back to their own schools. "We really want to bring computer science education to the forefront of people's minds in Pittsburgh and the larger area," says Nassar. Students who have already taken the course are acting as mentors, helping to teach current kids.
 
Students design lots of games, of course, but also some simple productivity apps, such as unit converters, and also work on painting and drawing programs. They come in with little to no programming knowledge and design apps they can complete in seven weeks.
 
"The students have come up with some pretty wild ideas," Nassar says. "It's exciting to see their creativity take them in directions I wouldn't have thought myself." They don't become full-fledged programmers after this short class, he notes, but it certainly piques their interest. "Students who hadn't even realized computer science might be something they would be excited about – they realize it."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: David Nassar, Winchester Thurston

Contemporary Craft's ENOUGH Violence exhibit is moving, and moving local groups to action

The new Society for Contemporary Craft (www.contemporarycraft.org) exhibit, ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out, which opened Sept. 25, is not only bringing emotional and thought-provoking art to their Strip gallery but has brought community groups and victims of violence together to explore the powers of art – and the roots and solutions to violence.
 
The exhibit, which features sculptures and jewelry made from gun parts, figures of toddlers placed in violent situations normally perpetrated by adults, and a display of damaged doll dresses representing the victims of domestic violence, may prompt strong reactions at times, says the Society's Executive Director Janet McCall: "We're hearing from people that it's a hard show to take in. But it's an important message. We're glad we've done the show. It is opening up a lot of conversations. We're seeing a lot of people walking in the door who have never been here.
 
"For a lot of people, they feel so helpless and overwhelmed by the vastness of the problem," she adds. But she hopes the exhibit creates an occasion for getting at the root causes of violence, which may lead to concrete ideas for solutions.
 
McCall has already heard from local anti-violence groups that want to get involved in prompting further public discussion and action, and the Society has opened the door wide for such partnerships.
 
Artists involved with ENOUGH Violence have already been working with children with disabilities and those in schools and Allegheny County's Shuman Juvenile Detention Center to create their own artistic responses to living with violence. This month, fabric artist Tina Brewer will be working with RELIEF (Recognizing Every Lingering Inward Emotional Feeling) in McKeesport, a group that helps those who have lost a family member to violence. The group will use materials significant to their loved one to construct fabric vessels – collapsible boxes that will store memories and that can be connected to one another – to help with group members' healing. They will be displayed beginning in November as part of ENOUGH Violence.  
 
For the first Saturday of each month, the Society has invited local anti-violence groups to be available to talk to gallery patrons. They are also bringing in speakers, including:
  • October 18: Dr. Norman White of Saint Louis University will speak about street violence and Dr. Rolf Loeber, of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine will talk about his decades-long study of anti-social and delinquent behavior risk factors in young boys and girls.
  • January 10, 2014: Dr. Judy Chang, also from Pitt's medical school, will give a talk on domestic violence and photographer Maria Montano will speak about her FACES project, for which she has taken 200 portraits of sexual-assault survivors.
  • January 20, 2014: Prof. Steve Gorelick of Hunter College will speak on violence in media and culture.
  • March 21, 2014: Dr. Ronald E. Voorhees of Carlow University will lead an informal discussion on the public health response to abuse and neglect.
"There are so many people who are in the community, particularly young people, who need help and don't even now there is help available," says Rachel Saul, the Society's studio program coordinator. Art, she adds, can be one place that generates understanding and healing. Artist Julie Sirek, who created the current exhibit's wall of identical white doll dresses that have been dirtied and damaged in various ways, says in her artist's statement that she witnessed domestic violence as a small child.
 
"What she learned was that she was never supposed to speak of it," Saul says. "She had to stuff away her feelings." Making the dresses has been a release for her, Saul adds, as viewing the art or making one's own pieces can be a release for anyone. Such work sends a message, Saul says: "This is not okay, and anyone who has had this experience must know that there is help out there, there are support services …"
 
Victims of violence, McCall says, are constantly reliving the moment of fear and experiencing the same feelings. "You need a process – something to help work through the emotion. I think art, for me, is always a therapeutic process. Even if you are not talking about it, the process allows you to visualize it … and let go of the feelings."
 
ENOUGH Violence even suggests ways for people to help the situation: volunteering at homeless shelters, getting involved politically for gun control, mentoring at-risk youth. "We hope," McCall concludes, "that for the groups who have come together, that we've connected, it won't be a one-time thing."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Janet McCall and Rachel Saul, Society for Contemporary Craft

Green Schools Academy wants kids' green projects through November

Pittsburgh has turned last year's international green community-service day for local students into a two-month-long Green Schools Academy, and organizers at Green Building Alliance say they already have 1,661 kids, school officials and community members doing 22 projects created by 10 schools alongside representatives from local green agencies and businesses.
 
"Last year was a really great success," says the Alliance's Jenna Cramer, vice president of the Academy. "This is a great way to reach more people and talk about health and high-performing schools. It has allowed us to increase the number of projects and people involved."
 
The Academy kicked off in mid-September with projects such as Garden Day at the Environmental Charter School in Regent Square, Grow Pittsburgh's garden workshop at Pittsburgh Faison K-5 in Homewood, ALCOSAN's Eco-Mural lessons at Manchester Academy Charter School and others.
 
Projects coming up include talks on the benefits of native plants, school energy audits, green community tours, writing projects, local home repair efforts, community gardens, the creation of a worm bin for specialized composting, harvest festivals, and many more.
 
Other schools involved include Pittsburgh Langley K-8, Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8, Pittsburgh Perry High School, Spectrum Charter School, Kentucky Avenue School, Barrett Elementary School in the Steel Valley School District and Northwestern Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy in Erie.
 
"We want to make sure all schools provide healthy, safe and high-performing learning environments," says Cramer. That includes using the fewest resources possible, enhancing their environmental and sustainability education (which helps increase students' civic engagement and career preparation) and providing a healthy learning environment – from ensuring healthy indoor air quality and food to employing green cleaning and school gardens.
 
Create more projects and sign up for Green School Academy participation here
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jenna Cramer, Green Building Alliance

Nonprofit about to win 200 hours of expert advice from Social Venture Partners

One area nonprofit is about to get $12,500 and something even more valuable: hundreds of hours of advice and coaching from Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh.
 
SVPP focuses on giving their money and expertise to local nonprofits helping at-risk children, and for this year's Fall Pitch competition on Oct. 9 they have chosen two finalists helping homeless youth: HEARTH and the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, Inc.
 
SVPP representatives visited the 15 applicants. "We want to get the right kind of applicants," says Elizabeth Visnic, the organization's director. "Are they ready for us? Are they asking for something we can deliver?"
 
SVPP can spend up to 200 hours helping a nonprofit, involving work from about a dozen partners. They offer strategy mapping (a kind of strategic planning), financial sustainability planning and help with messaging and networking.
 
"Each of the two finalists has specific needs that our partners can respond to," says Visnic. Hearth recently relocated its facility to a purchased property and is restructuring its board to conduct its operations differently. The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches is doing "a large number of projects and like most nonprofits are responding to where the need is," she says. But they recognize they could be more effective with strategy mapping, she adds. "Everybody needs to figure out, in three to five years, how are we going to be here?"
 
Concludes Visnic: "With a little bit of our assistance they can go to deeper levels of what they do."
 
Attend SVPP's Fall Pitch by signing up here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Elizabeth Visnic, Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh

Pittsburghartplaces.org: Tour art and venues, relive art that's gone and create your own tours

The 13-county region has been clamoring for a public art and art venue directory, says Renee Piechocki, and now it's here: Pittsburghartplaces.org.
 
"For a long time we heard, 'How come there is a lack of a singular resource to direct people to Pittsburgh's collection of public art, or all the art galleries?'" says Piechocki, director of the city's office of public art, a partnership of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and the Department of City Planning. "'Where are all the murals? What's in Westmoreland County?'"
 
Now, thanks to support from the Hillman Family and Colcom foundations, any self-identified art venue in the 13-county region can make a profile on the new website, from galleries and museum to bookstores and bars with open mic nights. Piechocki's office is now creating profiles for all the public art, both permanent and temporary, including 30 years of Three Rivers Arts Festival installations that are no longer here.
 
A bar on the left side of the "Places" section of the website lets you search by type of venue, artwork, programs, location and other pertinent information, such as whether there is free admission.
 
Once enough entries are made from venues in the region, as well as the entries about public art, the site will be "a cultural history of where we are and where we came from," she says.
 
The website will allow those who post, and those who use it, to experience a more comprehensive story about local art, she adds. Listings can include historical photographs and other related material. For instance, the entry for the Roberto Clemente statue outside PNC Park contains not only photographs but links to the artist's website, Clemente's biography and obituary, and places to click for two videos of the famous Pirates player's 3000th hit.
 
So far, the site too has been a hit, she says, particularly outside the city. "What was cool was to hear the local [community groups] say, 'Wow, we would never have the budget to do this,' or, 'Pittsburgh is known as an art region, not just an art city; thanks for including us.'"
 
Residents, visitors or even those preparing to host guests on a private great-art tour can upload their own choices to share. Non-art venues, such as the airport and convention center, can now post guides to their art, which appear nowhere else on the web.
 
Concludes Piechocki: "It's going to be exciting to see where people take this."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Renee Piechocki, Pittsburghartplaces.org

Groundbreaking videogame from Schell and Yale teaches teens risks of HIV

Schell Games, teaming with Yale University, has created a game that aims to teach at-risk teens about smart decision-making and wise behavior to reduce their chances of getting AIDS. The game, PlayForward: Elm City Stories, is now being tested by the Yale team on several hundred teens to see just how effective it can be, before it will likely be rolled out to schools, community groups and the public.
 
"If you get them to make better risk choices, across the board," says Sabrina Culyba, Schell senior game designer, about the game's intended players, ages 11-14, "you can influence their exposure to HIV."
 
The touch-enabled iPad game lets players create an aspirational avatar – a character they'd like to be – and build events into their young lives, such as a house, a job or travel opportunities. The avatars go through life experiences with their peers in grades seven through 12 and face branching choices that lead to different consequences.
 
The games within PlayForward include People Sense (in which players figure out how risky are different types of relationships); Refusal Power (about how people try to manipulate others into doing things, and the ability to say no to different kinds of peer pressure); Priority Sense (about the ability to make choices, including the levels of relationships with families and peers and the consequences of cumulative choices); and Know Power (which places players in a social conversation, during which peers express opinions while players learn how to defend their own stances).
 
Each player may end up picking an avatar of his or her own age and gender, but the goal of the game is to show stories of risk among a greater variety of people, both girls and boys. Each mini-game thus has 10 challenges for 10 types of character within the player's peer group.
 
The game, which won a 2013 DATA Award from the Pittsburgh Technology Council, was designed to be played over several weeks. "Completing those challenges and games allows you to find better paths and choices for your character," says Culyba. An epilogue shows what happens to each avatar in his or her twenties, using the player's aspirations and choices to show a welcome outcome of positive decisions or the health and income deficits of bad choices.
 
Yale's play2prevent team, led by Project Director Kimberly Hieftje, conceived the idea and got funding from the National Institutes of Health. They started a randomized, controlled trial of the game's effectiveness in February and have 115 kids enrolled, aiming for 330. They'll be measuring players' attitudes about and behavior toward drug and alcohol use as well as sex, before, during and as long as two years after the game.
 
Following the study, says Hieftje, they will talk to community members, parents and school directors "to see how can we get this game out there, who should be playing it and who can benefit?"
 
Was it tough to design a game that tries to change behavior and has a disease as its subject matter?
 
"Of course," Culyba says. "You have to walk the line. You're trying to talk about serious things. You have to be willing to talk about behavior in a very frank way.
 
"This game really wants to change behavior," she adds. "This is not really well understood in the game industry…. In real life, kids face emotional pressures that are different than when they are playing a game. That's a really tough challenge."
 
Writer: Marty Levine   
Sources: Sabrina Culyba, Schell Games; Kimberly Hieftje, Yale

Great events and good works from five nonprofits you've probably never heard of

Searching for some good to do, and some fun ways to celebrate good works in Pittsburgh?
 
We've just been through the United Way of Allegheny County's Month of Living Generously and are headed toward its fall campaign, as well as the Pittsburgh Foundation's Day of Giving on Oct. 3. But if you want a life lived with a big heart and an open hand, you may want to know about these nonprofits that likely escaped your attention. Most have new events to highlight their accomplishments and gather fuel for the coming year:

  • The Homeless Children's Education Fund in the Strip is holding two events for Homeless Children's Awareness Week (Oct. 13-20). This fund helps give homeless kids access to educational programs and services, and their first-ever Carnival in the Fall on Oct. 17 at the Priory Hotel's Grand Ballroom will feature rum tastings and tapas, live Latin music, a handmade auction of local artists' goods, a casual fashion show by designer Lana Neumeyer and more. "Stand Up and Run for Homeless Children," a 10K run and a 5K run and walk, will take place Oct. 19 beginning on North Park's Pearce Mill Road.
  • The Garden of Peace Project is also holding its first of what they hope to be an annual event: the Exploration of Self Conference on Oct 18 through 20, which aims to offer a wider understanding of the LGBT and HIV+ communities, whom the project serves. The conference will explore how spirituality and race affect the communities and Pittsburgh's efforts to be inclusive.
  • The Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of Autism Speaks' first-ever Chefs Create will be chaired by former Steeler great Lynn Swann and hosted by WTAE's Janelle Hall on Nov. 7 at the Fairmont Hotel. Chefs from nine of the city's top venues will be offering creations: Bistro 19's Jessica Bauer, Braddock's Jason Shaffer, Cioppino's Greg Alauzen, Donato's Donato Coluccio, McCormick & Schmicks' Christopher Noonan and Rick Kirsap, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto's Jordan Eback, Savoy's Kevin Watson, Seviche's Brian Kennedy and The Capital Grille's Travis Hall. There will also be a cocktail hour with live music.
  • Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund was named for Genre Baker, who started this charity at nine in 2009 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Genre's cancer is in remission, but his aim now is to provide children who are diagnosed with cancer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and their families, essential supplies and toiletries for what is too often a long first hospital stay. The nonprofit also tries to give each kid a handheld gaming system for their time in chemotherapy and undergoing blood transfusions, and has passed out 8-12 per month since 2010. It raises money through an annual golf outing, a 5K race and family fun day and of course your donations.
  • Parkinson disease may be well known, but the National Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania's annual Moving Day fundraising walk, held Sept 28 at Highmark Stadium beside Station Square this year, may be less well-recognized. The event includes a Movement Pavilion featuring yoga, dance and more, as well as face painting, balloon art and magic demonstrations, with the Pirate Parrot and Ammo the Riverhound in attendance.
Writer: Marty Levine

Still don't know about Heinz House after-school activities? Come to Community Day

Are all the after-school offerings at the Sarah Heinz House still unknown to a large part of Pittsburgh? Janice Wasson, its director of development and marketing, thinks too many people are unaware of these ultra-affordable, fun activities, costing just $25 for an entire year.
 
That's why the Heinz House on the North Side, home to the area's Boys and Girls Clubs of America, is holding its semi-annual free Community Day on September 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Heinz House will throw open its doors for potential members to check out the facilities and meet the staff.
 
Kids (accompanied by an adult, of course) should bring sneakers and a swimsuit and towel if they want to enjoy the gym or pool, along with refreshments and arts and crafts, a bounce house, balloon animals, face painting and more.
 
"Parents depend on us," Wasson notes, since the House is open from 3 to 9 p.m. on weekdays. "There is something for every child here," from first graders to 18-year-olds.
 
Kids must attend two Heinz House sessions when they first join -- a gym and swim class and a life skills class to promote social and emotional learning and cultural awareness. Then they are free to take advantage of more offerings in gymnastics, swimming, dance, and robotics, to name a few. They can also take part in the sports league and teen leadership development program, which involves performing community work and attending local and national conferences.
 
A meal and snack are also provided at no cost to kids in the program. They can learn to undertake peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching of younger kids, and have the chance to get paid part-time jobs, such as helping in the café and the pool.
 
Heinz House also offers swimming, gymnastics and dance for preschoolers and is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays for adults to use the fitness area and pool. 
 
"There's something for everybody here," Wasson says. "We want them to come away thinking it's a great place for kids, it's a safe place for kids, and … we seek to build good citizens. We truly believe that Sarah Heinz House has a way of affecting each child in a very personal way."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Janice Wasson, Sarah Heinz House

New film grants announced from Sprout at Happy Hour

The Sprout Fund is using its next Happy Hour on Sept. 26 to announce new film, video and multimedia grants, with applications due Nov. 8.
 
Happy Hours – designed to let the public know the latest about the Fund's efforts, past and future – are held every other month. The Sept. 26 event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. Free beer, soft drinks and popcorn will accompany a showing of the Sprout-supported film Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives. Kristen Lauth Shaeffer and Andrew Halasz, creators of this anthology of nine shorts, will be on hand to speak about the project.

Sprout has supported nearly 20 film-related projects in the past, notes Kathleen Radock, development officer, and Pittsburgh continues to produce so many such artworks that Sprout decided it was time to apply its Seed Awards to those efforts.
 
Now Sprout is looking to grant up to $10,000 each to three or four film, video or multimedia proposals for "innovative community-based projects," Radock says. The website notes that Sprout has previous funded films that focus on "amplifying community voices, highlighting issues of social importance, promoting cultural and ethnic diversity, documenting local history, calling for civic action and the art of entertainment."
 
Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts will give grantees access to professional equipment, training and technical assistance. Sprout accepts applications from individuals as well as non-profit organizations and community groups. 
 
To RSVP for the free event, click here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kathleen Radock, The Sprout Fund

Fleming named head of United Way annual campaign

"I need to rally other leaders and let people know why they should get involved," says Kim Tillotson Fleming, chairman and CEO of Hefren-Tillotson, who was recently named chair of the 2013 annual campaign of the United Way of Allegheny County.
 
That's because the need here is greater than ever, she notes. "Although our unemployment rate has been better than the national average, the level of need for United Way services continues to grow," based on the number of calls the organization receives and the demand at local food banks.
 
"In terms of social services, I think that more money goes through United Way than any other agency," she adds. And the annual corporate campaigns reach 60,000 donors.
 
United Way's goal this year is to raise more than $33 million for school success programs and aid and advocacy for seniors, families in financial difficulties and people with disabilities. And Fleming seems to be up to leading the challenge.
 
She serves on the boards of Allegheny College, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, The Buhl Foundation, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the Pittsburgh Foundation, and has been deeply involved in United Way campaigns for years. After her own company's very successful campaign beat the employee participation goal one year, she walked nearly 20 miles between Hefren-Tillotson's Wexford and Pittsburgh offices to celebrate.
 
As the leader of this year's campaign, Fleming intends to increase membership in the Women's Leadership Council, which has had the strongest growth of any initiative at the local United Way. It has a group goal of raising a million dollars more this year to help women through such issues as loss of a job, divorce or health problems. She also hopes to encourage more people to pledge earlier and to increase their pledges across several years.
 
"I'm a huge believer in giving back," she says, "and I've found that people get more out of giving. I hope we're able to make it a very successful campaign, beyond our dreams for this year."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kim Tillotson Fleming, United Way of Allegheny County
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