Archived News & Events - June 2017

June 29, 2017

NHS/AVS Plays Ball in the Miracle League

When the Miracle League of Southwestern PA (MLSWPA) wrapped up its 2017 season on June 29, team members from NHS Allegheny Valley School (NHS/AVS) shared many memories of their baseball experience. NHS/AVS fielded ten teams of men and women ages 25 to 70+ in this 5th year of Miracle League participation. Assistant Western Region Director Roni Erath said, “These experiences support our commitment to provide opportunities and choices for NHS/AVS consumers to grow and function at their full potential as independently as possible.”

Miracle League provides the opportunity for children and adults with special needs to experience playing baseball in a league-based environment at The Pirates Charities Miracle League Field in Cranberry Township, PA. The field has a specially designed all-weather rubber turf field and is accessible for those with disabilities. There are no raised surfaces to interfere with crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs. “Attainment of exceptional athletic skill or the winning of games is secondary to the molding of future citizens.That’s of prime importance,” says Mike Wiseman, Miracle League board member and adult division coordinator.

A game consists of two innings in which all players bat each inning. Batters can hit off a tee or from a coach/pitcher. Special baseballs for those who are hearing impaired are available.There are no strikeouts or walks, players are never called out, and all players get to circle the bases to score a run each inning. “While the game is adapted to the players’ special needs, it still promotes a real baseball experience,” explains Sara Volk, an NHS/AVS house manager who serves as coach of the NHS/AVS Volcanoes. “Circling the bases in a wheelchair is a thrill. As team members hit and field balls they eagerly await a tally of runs on the scoreboard despite the fact that all games end in a tie on purpose.That way everybody wins.” The Miracle League also is a unique way to acquaint the community with the work of NHS/AVS as people stop by to cheer on the teams. Local media coverage helped to convey the enthusiasm of NHS/AVS consumer participants:

Carol: NHS/AVS staff member Christine Weekley, left, celebrates with NHS/AVS Grasshoppers team member Carol during the June 28 Miracle League baseball game in Cranberry. Staff member Lisa Pettner is behind them.

Joan: NHS/AVS team member Joan gives it her all at bat for the Volcanoes!

Anna: NHS/AVS Emeralds team member Anna rounds the bases heading for home in the June 28 game of the Miracle League Baseball League that closed out its season this week.

Christopher: NHS/AVS staff member Lauren Csoman accompanies NHS/AVS Volcanoes team member Christopher around the bases after his turn at bat in the June 28 Miracle League baseball game at the Pirates Charities Miracle League Field in Cranberry.

Mud Cats Jim Kronk coaches Mark as he comes up to bat.

Olivia waits for her pitch during the Hooks June 29th Miracle League game.

Brogan Jasek pitches to Kayla during the Hooks final game of Miracle League spring season.

June 29, 2017

NHS/AVS Night at the Pirates Game

Friends, family members, consumers, and staff members gathered in the 1927 and 1960 World Series Suites at PNC Park on June 13 to see the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Colorado Rockies. A 5-2 victory made the evening even more exciting!

To kick off our 3rd annual event, guests cheered on Benjamin Pollon, son of Merakey Foundation Board Member Dorothy Pollon, as he threw out the honorary first pitch. He was joined on the field by his parents, Dorothy and Neal, his sister Jill, Merakey Foundation Board Member Chris Dunton (who was Ben’s catcher), NHS CEO Joe Martz, NHS/AVS Assistant Western Region Director Roni Erath and clients and staff members from Malcolm Group Home.

The gathering gave our supporters the opportunity to socialize and enjoy Pirates baseball in the beautiful PNC Park. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Capital Development Fund, helping to maintain and improve the services we provide to 850 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Pennsylvania. 

We are grateful to the following underwriters who helped to make the event possible!

Capital Healthcare Solutions
Guardian Protection Services
HAR-KEL, INC. Medical Specialties
Lintons Food Service Management
Kathy and Joe Martz
Mike Mitchell and The Graham Company
Donna and Terry McNelis
Mongiovi & Son
The Pollon Family
Dan Taylor Interiors, Inc
June 20, 2017

Youth Day in Baton Rouge, LA

NHS Awarded as Employment First Provider On June 7, the Wraparound Agency in Baton Rouge helped sponsor the Louisiana Youth Day at the State Capitol Building. In support of Children’s Mental Health Awareness, this annual event raises awareness about mental health and other important issues affecting Louisiana youth. Children and families had the opportunity to interact with State Representatives, Senators and other officials to share ideas for improving the services, programs, and systems that serve youth.

<< Pictured are Carolina Jones, Program Director, and Ashley Bauer, Community Resource Specialist, of Baton Rouge Wraparound Agency

June 20, 2017

Fresh Start Gives Back to the Community

Fresh Start partnered with the Philadelphia Office of the Managing Director on Thursday, June 15 to repair and refresh an old community garden in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. The garden that was originally created about six years ago has been overgrown and in disrepair for about 3 years. Fresh Start, along with the city of Philadelphia, coordinated with partners, community organizations, and local residents to rebuild the community garden adjacent to Fresh Start recovery program located at 2868 Frankford Avenue. The garden now consists of 16 raised beds that will allow members of the community to not only help maintain the garden, but to also have full access to the organic vegetables of their assigned garden beds. Fresh Start staff and residents worked in the garden, hosted the BBQ, and interacted with neighbors in an effort to display NHS’s willingness to give back to the communities in which we operate. The day was a great success!

Fresh Start Gives Back to the Community
Fresh Start Gives Back to the Community
June 19, 2017

Merakey Foundation’s 19th Annual Golf Classic

Mother Nature waited until 5 pm to end the Merakey Foundation’s 19th Annual Golf Classic a little early with torrential rain, thunder, and lightening on Monday, June 19. However, that didn’t end the fun and goodwill from the attendees as they headed into the clubhouse for a delicious dinner and to bid on some great auction items. With more than 105 golfers playing a Scramble on a hot and humid day, the Merakey Foundation raised over $277,000 in support of NHS programs and services. This year’s outing featured Fresh Start’s Recovery House Scholarship program, and how the Foundation subsidizes funding for an additional six months of housing and support beyond the state funded maximum of 90 days. Special guest Kelly B. shared her personal and inspiring journey of recovery and how the scholarship program helped her to get a job, become more independent, and to maintain her recovery efforts. We applaud and thank Kelly for her participation and for sharing her story with us. Special thanks to Board Chairman Mike Mitchell, former Chairman and CEO Senator Joe Rocks, members of the Merakey Foundation and Parent Boards, CEO Joe Martz, and all the contributors for their incredible support over the past 19 years, helping to raise more than $3 million from this event for NHS programs and services!

June 16, 2017

Shelley Hendrix Autism Center Building Dedication

NHS welcomed more than 100 community members, dignitaries, and stakeholders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to celebrate the building dedication ceremony of its NHS Autism Center to Shelley Hendrix on May 18. The ceremony featured a traditional Louisiana crawfish boil and a fais do-do, as NHS honored Shelley and her children, Liam and Mairin.

Shelley Hendrix has been an advocate for autism since her son’s diagnosis in 1999, and has shared her personal story with Autism and its effects on her family in numerous publications and media outlets around the country including USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and CNN, and has served on an advisory panel for the U.S. Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program. As a parent with a child who has autism, Shelley understands first-hand the challenges faced by families who are looking for hope and support. Shelley worked closely with NHS to open the NHS Autism Center, which began services in March. The NHS Shelley Hendrix Autism Center offers a special education school for students ages 5-21, ABA (applied behavioral analysis), specialized therapy services, and a kindergarten readiness program for children ages 3-5 called “Bee Me.”

Congratulations, Shelley, for this well-deserved recognition, and the Education and Autism Team on a successful event!

June 08, 2017

NHS Awarded as Employment First Provider

NHS Awarded as Employment First Provider

NHS was recently recognized as an Employment First Provider by the Association of People Supporting Employment First for our commitment to the individuals we serve living an everyday life in the community, also known as the framework for Employment First. Being a part of everyday life in the community includes employment, and this award recognizes that we believe all citizens have abilities, strengths, and talents. It confirms our belief in "real work for real pay." NHS is honored to receive this award and grateful for the opportunity to help our individuals become employed and contributing members in their communities.

June 08, 2017

Mickey’s Team – 15 Years Strong

Mickey’s Team – 15 Years Strong

Since 2003, NHS Allegheny Valley School staff members have participated in the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to honor Mickey Coleman, an employee who worked for NHS/AVS for more than 20 years and who lost her battle with cancer in 2002. Mickey’s Team, which typically has 40-60 members, gathers each Mother’s Day in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park to walk with breast cancer survivors, and their family members and friends, to raise awareness and funds. Over the past 15 years, NHS/AVS employees have raised more than $28,000 to support breast cancer research and wellness programs through the Komen Foundation.

“The team members run or walk each year to honor Mickey,” states Assistant Regional Executive Director Roni Erath. “Mickey’s positive attitude and strong work ethic influenced so many of us, and we admire and remember her for her unsurpassed dedication to the consumers and staff.”

June 1, 2017

Mental Health Association Bell of Hope Dinner 2017

NHS was well represented at the Annual Bell of Hope dinner held by the Mental Health Association of Southeastern PA on May 25 in Philadelphia. The event honored State Representative Gene Digirolomo (R, Bucks) for his work in supporting behavioral health services, particularly substance abuse services. Pictured in the photo (from left) Rep. Digirolomo, Lisa Quintana, director of Permanent Supported Housing program and a constituent of the Representative, George Ruiz, Mobile Psych Rehab Specialist, Shayla Day, Certified Peer Specialist and Josh Vigderman, Executive Director, NHS Parkside.

Mental Health Association Bell of Hope Dinner 2017
June 1, 2017

NHS/AVS Athletes Participate in Special Olympics

On May 13, more than 50 athletes from NHS/AVS’ Pittsburgh Campus, Patricia Hillman Miller Campus (PHMC), and Allegheny and Beaver County Group Homes participated in the 2017 Allegheny County Special Olympics Summer Games. Individuals from NHS/AVS competed with their fellow athletes from around the area in events including wheelchair races, various track and field events, golf putting, bocce, and the MATP program (Motor Activity Training). NHS/AVS has been a part of the annual summer games for more than 35 years, with the first games hosted at the Pittsburgh Campus in the late 70’s. A special shout-out to Pittsburgh Campus Program Instructor Ashley Hirsh who performed the National Anthem in sign language during the opening ceremonies, and to NHS Staff Development Executive Carol Erzen for her role in helping the local Special Olympics organization plan this spectacular event each year.

“It takes an amazing group of volunteers to support the Allegheny County Special Olympic Summer games,” commented Carol Erzen. “We could not have done it without so many staff and volunteers from NHS/AVS.” Special thanks to: Amanda Thomas (SFR program coordination), Jeff D’Eramo (Pittsburgh Campus coordination), Rick Pattinato (PHMC coordination) and Mary Curtz (coordinator of the MATP program).