Category: Family-Friendly PGH Community Service

Join us at the Second Free Store 15104 Donation Drive!

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi
Our First Free Store Donation Drive
Our First Free Store 15104 Donation Drive

As some of you may remember, I hosted the first Free Store 15104 Donation Drive earlier this summer at the Waterfront‘s Summer Music and Marketplace. The turnout was just wonderful–we managed to fill up an entire U-Haul in just a few hours! The items we collected were then redistributed for FREE to needy residents of Braddock and the rest of Allegheny County at Free Store 15104.

Now, I am excited to announce that I’m teaming up yet again with the Free Store to host another donation drive on September 20th at the Bloomfield Saturday Market during the first annual Braddock Day. Not only will we be collecting gently used children’s clothing, toys and baby gear on this day. We will also be celebrating all of the creativity and progress emerging from the Braddock community with:

We will be collecting all of the items mentioned above in a U-Haul parked near the Gross Street gate from 9-1pm. Please park your car in the reserved spots on Gross Street adjacent to the U-Haul to unload. We will have tax receipts on hand if you would like them. We will also have chalk and bubbles. Plus, the wonderful and talented Genevieve of the AP Collection will be doing free face-painting again!

Please join us on September 20th as we celebrate this season’s harvest at one of the city’s most family-friendly Farmer’s Markets. Plus, join the effort to support a community that has already come so far, but still needs our help! If you would like to RSVP, please visit our Facebook event page.

Many thanks to the Bloomfield Saturday Market and the Bloomfield Development Corporation for supporting Braddock and hosting our Drive. Show them some love at their own Harvest for the Hungry Produce Drive to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

 

 

Join me in the Miracle Marathon and Support the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh!

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

This blog post was generously sponsored by the Miracle Marathon. All opinions are my own.

Merel Duursma, the Inspired Pittsburgh Youth supporting Children's Hospital in the Miracle Marathon
Merel Duursma

Meet Merel Duursma. She’s a 22-year old native Pittsburgher who just finished nursing school at Pitt. She spent this summer on the job hunt, dreaming of finding a position on the oncology floor at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. You see–Merel understands firsthand the importance of the onc nurses to the kids who need them. Merel is herself a pediatric cancer survivor.

Merel was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the first grade. Her elementary school years were spent getting chemotherapy and radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP). Officially in remission now, she’s devoted the last few years to giving back to Children’s as a contributor to their Survivorship newsletter, a member of their “Run for Children’s” Half-Marathon team, and a participant in their Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Group. This September, she will be also be a part of Pittsburgh’s first Miracle Marathon in support of Children’s.

I recently had the chance to meet Merel and understand her motivation for being a part of the Miracle Marathon. I was so compelled by her story that I decided to write this blog post to gather support for her team, Merel’s Miracle Makers!

I will share parts of my interview with you. But first, some basic information about the Miracle Marathon:

What is it?

The Miracle Marathon is a 27-day physical fitness challenge benefitting CHP and other Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Basically, each participant is asked to move one mile per day from September 16-October 12. For the first 26 days, you can run, walk, bike, swim, hop, or do any equivalent exercise whenever and wherever you choose. On the last day, all the participants will complete the final 1.2 miles at the same time. By the end, you will have completed a marathon plus 1.2 miles…and supported Children’s Hospital!

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How do you register for the Miracle Marathon?

You can easily register for the Miracle Marathon on their website. You can choose to a) be a “Miracle Maker” for $27.20. Go this route and you will get a pedometer, a tracking magnet, other goodies and daily inspirational emails or b) register to participate through a free option. When you register, please remember to indicate your support of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. You can also choose to participate as either an individual or as part of a team. You can join my team, you can become a part of Merel’s Miracle Makers, or you can create your own!

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Do you need to fundraise for the Miracle Marathon?

When you register, you will also be asked if you have a fundraising goal. You certainly don’t have to raise funds to support Children’s nor do you have to meet your fundraising goal. However, if you do decide to raise funds (or make a donation yourself) your support will help Children’s provide uncompensated patient care for its kids like:

  • the newest life-saving equipment
  • community outreach and services in your neighborhood
  • care for the whole family, including siblings at the Lemieux Sibling Center
  • Family activities for sicks kids and their siblings like Prom or Trick-or-Treating in the hospital
  • 13 medical-free playrooms which allow patients the chance to “be kids” while they’re staying at Children’s
Me and Merel!
Me and Merel!

Why did I decide to support Merel’s team?

I have a few reasons: A) Because I just loved her personality in our recent interview B) I really believe in supporting what she’s doing for Children’s C) I want her to know that her story has the power to inspire others.

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Now, back to my interview with Merel…

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Can you tell me about your diagnosis?

I was seven years old when I was diagnosed with an optic chiasm glioma, a brain tumor compressing the intersection of my optic nerves. The journey began when I failed the right-eye portion of the school vision screening in the first grade. We visited optometrists and they couldn’t find lenses that would successfully correct my vision. We were then referred to an ophthalmologist at CHP. He realized something more was wrong and ordered the MRI that showed the tumor at the base of my brain.

I can remember when my mom told me. She was crying. I don’t think I really understood the seriousness of the situation. My oncologist, Dr. Jakacki, was very sincere and straightforward right away. My parents told me, “I know she can heal you.” And she did.

Merel, in 1999, during active treatment
Merel, in 1999, during active treatment

What was your treatment like?

Chemotherapy began the week after my diagnosis. It was always a big event–absolutely the most traumatic part of the experience. They needed to access my Medi-Port with a needle during each chemotherapy administration; however, the numbing cream that they used never worked on me. As a result, my onc nurse, Rose, would have to calm me down for ten minutes before they could insert it. That was probably the most profound part of the experience for me–that she actually spent the time to talk to me instead of just holding me down and going for it.

I successfully completed almost a year of chemotherapy and then continued to get regular MRI scans to check for tumor progression. In the 4th grade, they discovered that the tumor had started to grow again, so I started radiation therapy at Children’s. Six months after radiation therapy was completed, Dr. Jakacki and her team determined the tumor to be scar tissue with a very small chance of recurrence. Thankfully, that has remained true even 12 years later. I still go for an MRI every 2 years and have recently transitioned into the Survivorship Clinic for long-term follow up at Children’s.

Merel with her Oncology Nurse, Rose Halackna, at Camp
Merel with her Oncology Nurse, Rose Halackna, at Camp Courage

How did the Children’s Hospital support you in this journey?

I’ve always thought about my experience with cancer as something that happened to me, but it’s not who I am. I would never have realized that fact without Children’s. All of the experiences the hospital gave me—from Camp Courage, a sleep-away camp I went to throughout childhood, to the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology group, I’ve been able to process my ordeal with cancer, find a way to heal, move on, and advocate in my own life.

At Children’s, I also feel a strong sense of community. I wasn’t diagnosed with cancer, treated, and then shown the door with a “Good Luck!” I still have relationships with the doctors and nurses who cared for me. In fact, my former oncology nurse, Rose Halackna, has been a strong influence in my decision to become an RN myself. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing last Spring and am looking to find a pediatric oncology position at a nearby hospital. Children’s is, of course, my first choice!

merel3

Why are you participating in this year’s Miracle Marathon?

It breaks my heart that there is a need for Children’s Hospital–that there are so many seriously ill children that actually need that kind of care. However, I am filled with so much joy to see how far Children’s has advanced since I started treatment many years ago. If it weren’t for Children’s, I may honestly not be here today. I certainly wouldn’t have the quality of life that I do right now. I truly feel that Children’s has such an important place in our community that we owe it to ourselves and to them to support it!

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As a member of the Miracle Marathon’s lead blogger team, I also got the chance to talk to some of the staff at Children’s. They passed along some photos of the truly beautiful parts of Children’s and I thought I’d share a few with you, including my most favorite of all–the Spiderman window washer at Children’s Hospital:

Spiderman Window Washer at Children's

The “distraction rooms” used during intakes for same-day surgery:

06272014_CHP_Foundation_0191_Same Day Surgery

Sibling playing guitar in the Mario Lemieux Sibling Center:

Sibling playing guitar in the Mario Lemieux Sibling Center
Sibling playing guitar in the Mario Lemieux Sibling Center

And this priceless image, of a mom and son at the CHP Prom:

The CHP Prom

I am genuinely looking forward to participating in this year’s Miracle Marathon. I am proud to support Children’s Hospital, an institution that has worked so hard to save the lives of inspiring people like Merel. I am also looking forward to embracing a healthy change in my life. A mile a day? Whenever and wherever I want? I can definitely do that–even with my kids in tow! I hope you will also consider joining me in this year’s Miracle Marathon!

Want to connect with the Miracle Marathon? Here are links to its Facebook page and Twitter account. Use the hashtag #MiracleMarathon to be a part of the conversation!

 

Full Circle at a SIMPLE Giving Snack Drive

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

This blog post was generously sponsored by Champions for Kids and the Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

jpdd2

A couple weeks ago, I held my first Champions for Kids SIMPLE Giving Snack Drive to benefit Jeremiah’s Place at the Bloomfield Saturday Market. As I was collecting snacks that day, I met a lot of people–a local farmer, an allergist from Children’s, an elderly lady who bizarrely grabbed a piece of my pizza right off my plate and ate it. In the sea of faces that fill my memory of that day, one particular individual stands out: a young mom with two little kids. Like me, she was short, perky, excited to be there. Our similarities didn’t end there.

“I worked for 10 years,” she told me, “But I just recently decided to leave my career and stay at home with my kids.”

She then leaned across the table, lowered her voice, and confessed, “I love being with my children, but there’s a piece of me that still wants to do something else, too. Something that benefits families besides my own.”

jpdd1
First snack donations

“Something like what you’re doing here,” she said and motioned to the healthy snack drive around us.

Her words hit me like a thunderclap. Two years ago, I stood in the same metaphorical place. Happy to be with my kids, but feeling the slightest stirrings of discontent and “What next?” All I knew: I wanted to help families in Pittsburgh.

So…I started the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and nurtured it like a third child. In the process, I’ve learned a lot. The most important lesson rang loud and clear at the Bloomfield Saturday Market that weekend:

 I am not alone!

It’s humbling. This city is full of people and organizations that share my dream of helping families. The woman who drove all the way from Greensburg to drop off snacks for the kids at JP. Genevieve of the AP Collection, one of the city’s most talented artists, who volunteered to do free face-painting for kids. The Volunteer Princess who sat in the beating sun and entertained children all morning for free. The retired preschool teacher and the medical student who both committed to volunteering at JP. All those people who brought snacks. And that mom.

Me and LouAnn Ross, Executive Director of Jeremiah's Place
Me and LouAnn Ross, Executive Director of Jeremiah’s Place

And it’s not just individuals. Champions for Kids has a beautiful mission–to inspire people to hold SIMPLE Service Projects, where they collect items that are needed by families in their communities. The Bloomfield Saturday Market brings families together to celebrate community and healthy lifestyles. And, of course, Jeremiah’s Place, a safe haven for Pittsburgh families that guarantees us all: “You Are Not Alone” in a time of crisis. This city is full of people and organizations that I’m proud to call partners. We truly ARE becoming the most livable city for families.

To the mom that I met at the Bloomfield Saturday Market that day: I gave you my business card. Please email me. I want to help you to help others. Whether it’s organizing your own SIMPLE Service Project, starting a blog, or something completely different, I want you to know–you are not alone.

jpdd3
Healthy snacks, safely delivered to Jeremiah’s Place, the city’s first crisis nursery

And to anybody else who reads this post and wants to join me in my efforts to help Pittsburgh families, please email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com so we can brainstorm ideas.

After that weekend at the Bloomfield Saturday Market, I’m convinced that my blog has come full circle. It has evolved into exactly what I always hoped it could be–a way to genuinely impact and better the lives of local families. Thank you, Pittsburgh, for helping my dream come true!

Be a Part of the First Jeremiah’s Place Snack Drive!

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

Some of you may remember my blog post about Pittsburgh’s Jeremiah’s Place last Spring. After writing it, I got to know its founders and have become personally involved in the organization. As the months have passed, I have become thoroughly convinced of its importance in the Pittsburgh parenting community.

Little cutie at Jeremiah's Place
Little cutie at Jeremiah’s Place

So what is it? Jeremiah’s Place (JP) is the city’s first overnight relief nursery, intended to be a place of refuge for local children when their parents need it. Since its opening last April, parents have brought their children to Jeremiah’s Place for a variety of reasons. Some have been in the midst of medical emergencies, needing somebody to watch their children until family and friends can come into town. Some have been homeless mothers, trying to find a job or a place to live. Another woman dropped her son off at JP on her way to jail. Although her family came and got the little boy soon afterwards, she said goodbye to him for a sizeable piece of his childhood.

Whatever their reasons, parents throughout Pittsburgh have found JP to be an irreplaceable comfort in a world filled with uncertainty.

champions-for-kids-logo

I was recently speaking with the founders of JP when I learned that the organization has a need for healthy, nonperishable snack foods to feed the children. So I’m partnering with Champions for Kids to hold a “Champions for Kids SIMPLE Giving Snack Drive” to benefit Jeremiah’s Place.

The Bloomfield Saturday Market and its organizer, Christina Howell of the Bloomfield Development Corporation, were kind enough to offer to host this snack drive on August 9th from 9-1 pm. To make the event even more festive, the Market is sponsoring a number of family-friendly activities that day, including face-painting, a visit with the Volunteer Princesses (and princes), live entertainment, chalk, bubbles, and more! Oh– and all of the usual wonderful parts of the market, including the freshest of local produce and yummy prepared foods! The Bloomfield Saturday Market is located on Liberty Avenue between Gross and S. Winebiddle Streets.

bloomfield marketlogo1

I will have a table set up there (look for the balloons!) with information about Jeremiah’s Place and a collection box. We will be accepting HEALTHY nonperishable snack food items.

Since I’m no nutritional expert, I sought the advice of two of the city’s most well-known moms/healthy eating experts: Leah Lizarondo, founder of Brazen Kitchen, and Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, author of My Food Notebook, to define “healthy” for me. They both recommended snack foods that are 1) low in sugar 2) low in sodium 3) without artificial flavoring and 4) organic, if possible. Some suggestions they gave:

  • raisins and other dried fruits
  • whole grain crackers
  • low sodium pretzels
  • low sodium popcorn and/or Pirate’s Booty
  • rice cakes
  • apple sauce
  • fruit cups NOT in syrup, such as Dole’s Fruit Bowls
  • squeezable packages of pureed fruits/vegetables/etc.
  • water bottles
  • 100% fruit juice boxes

Jeremiah’s Place also requests that the foods be:

  • NUT FREE
  • Individually-packaged

jpdonationdrivefinal

I hope that you will join me and Champions for Kids on August 9th from 9-1pm at the Bloomfield Saturday Market to support Jeremiah’s Place and its important mission to protect and support Pittsburgh families. You can RSVP at the Facebook event page. Or NOT! Either way, you are welcome. And if you can’t make it to the event, but would still like to donate please email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com to set up a time to drop items off!

THANK YOU!

 

Disclosure: This blog post and snack drive campaign have been generously sponsored by two wonderful organizations: Champions for Kids and The Motherhood!

 

Family-Friendly PGH Community Service: The Kids Campaign to End Hunger

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

In my series “Family-Friendly PGH Community Service,” I highlight local volunteer opportunities that welcome young children and encourage their participation.  It is my hope that this series will help Pittsburgh parents find fun and kid-friendly ways to nurture a sense of service in their children.  Have an idea for a blog post in this series?  Email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com.

*****

This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and The Motherhood.  All opinions are my own.

Food.  I love it.  I relish in cooking it.  I adore eating it.  I obnoxiously gush over it.  I even dream about it!  Thankfully, I had the privilege of being raised in a household where food was plentiful and was eaten heartily.  Now, my own children are enjoying the same privilege.

But what if you didn’t have enough food to feed your children?  What if your kids cried at mealtime–not because they didn’t like their choices, but because they didn’t have enough?  Seems like a remote possibility in our First World lives.  Unfortunately, it’s NOT!

foodbanklogo

I was recently contacted by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  From them, I learned that nearly 21% of Pennsylvania children are suffering from “food insecurity,” which means over 550,000 PA children are unsure of whether they will get their next meal. That figure is astounding to me!  And it feels like a tragedy, especially in our world of plenty….

My question to them: “What can Pittsburgh families realistically do to help this problem??”

Their response:  “Get involved in the Kids Campaign to End Hunger!”

*****

Kids_CTEH

The “Kids Campaign to End Hunger” is an initiative by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to involve children and their families in the effort to reduce food insecurity in the greater Pittsburgh area.  And I think it’s AWESOME!

Here are some of the ways that your family can become involved in the “Kids Campaign to End Hunger”:

  • Pennies for Peanut Butter:  Clean out an empty jar of peanut butter and fill it up with pennies.  Bring it to a First Commonwealth Bank branch with a lobby coin counter machine, dump your change into the coin counter, bring the receipt to the teller, and tell them to deposit it into the Food Bank’s “Pennies for Peanut Butter” account.
  • “Special Occasions” donations:  At your child’s next birthday party or other special occasion, ask parents to bring canned foods or monetary donations for the Food Bank in lieu of presents.  The Food Bank even has themed invitations, activities, coloring pages, and thank you note templates available for download at the above link!
  • Food Drives: The Food Bank can help you plan a food drive through your neighborhood, school, church, or other organization.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has organized volunteer opportunities for children as young as 4!  They also welcome younger children to participate in projects like decorating lunchbags or placemats.

Finally, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is launching a new event called Putting an End to Hunger on May 31, 2014 at Fun Fore All entertainment complex in Cranberry Township.  This family-friendly miniature golf event will directly benefit the Food Bank’s efforts to reduce childhood hunger in Allegheny County! More details about this event:

Fun Fore All Event Image

  • Tee times are available at 9:30am, 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, 3:30pm, and 5pm.  You can reserve your tee time in advance.
  • Tickets cost $25/person.
  • Tickets include 18 holes of miniature golf, swag bag with goodies, lunch, and a “Putting an End to Hunger” T-shirt.

To reserve your place at “Putting an End to Hunger,” click here.  If you have additional questions about the event, please email Alyssa at ajjohns@pittsburghfoodbank.org.

My family and I will be at this event and I will be live-tweeting and instagramming @pittmommyblog with the hashtag #forethekids.  Use the same hashtag to share your experiences, too!

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Here’s some more info about the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  In 2012-2013 they:

  • Collected 475,040 pounds of food and non-food products, valued at $802,817, through community food drives
  • Harvested 114,903 pounds of produce (that otherwise would have gone to waste) from local farms during 47 gleaning sessions
  • Distributed 27,014,117 pounds of food and other essential items to low-income individuals and families.
  • Completed 186 “Produce to People” distributions, serving 16 distressed neighborhoods and 198,399 people.
  • Engaged 13,333 volunteers (including 4,280 new volunteers) for a total of 70,043 service hours.

Wow!  I’m proud to be involving myself and my children in these impressive efforts.  I hope you will consider becoming a part of it, too :) !

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