Archived News & Events, August 2018


Day at the Races for Merakey AVS

The 2018 Day at the Races took place on August 18, at Pittsburgh International Race Complex and was filled with exciting kart racing, great food from Café Raymond, wonderful company, and amazing auctions and raffles!

After a practice and a preliminary round, Kevin was thrilled to wave the green flag to start the races. “I loved it and was proud to do that. I would love to be in one of those cars!” He commented. After the start, teams karted in a 60-minute race, with the Rudy Agras team, Little Rudy and Jimmy Janis coming out on top.

Auctions included artwork made by the individuals supported by Merakey AVS, a Sidney Crosby signed and framed poster, restaurant certificates, and more. A 50/50 and Scotty Cameron Masters Putter raffle contributed to the day’s activities and funds raised.

Merakey AVS is grateful to all the participants for making it a fun and festive day. Special thanks to the amazing UBS Walnut Wealth Management team of Denise Arndt, Chris Butsko, Jack Greenberg, Debora Kuzmanko, Lisa Lucas, Lee Oleinick and Louis Sforza.


The Terrible Towel® “Takes Flight” as Nose Art on Military Aircraft

Terrible Towel The Terrible Towel inspires more than the avid Steelers fan. The towel has been a part of the nose art of military aircraft, based in Pittsburgh, for years. On July 24, twenty-nine representatives from Merakey Allegheny Valley School (AVS) were guests of the 171st Air Refueling Wing. They attended the unveiling of the third iteration of The Terrible Towel image on the nose of a KC-135T military aircraft, just as they did in 2006 for the first. Guests included Elizabeth and Danny Cope, children of the creator of The Terrible Towel, Myron Cope.

While both the aircraft and Merakey AVS are located in Coraopolis, there is more to the story than just a shared location. In 1975, The Terrible Towel was created by the late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope to inspire and engage fans in a playoff game against the then-Baltimore Colts. Mr. Cope, who passed away in February 2008, was involved with Allegheny Valley School for more than a quarter century when his son became a resident there. In 1996, Mr. Cope gave the ownership of The Terrible Towel trademark to Allegheny Valley School.

“Since then, the royalties from the sale of all officially licensed ‘Terrible Stuff’ (including towels, ties, ornaments, lapel pins, and more) have come to Merakey AVS to help cover costs such as equipment, program development and renovations to our facilities, to improve the quality of life for the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities we support. We are eternally grateful for the legacy Myron Cope has entrusted to us,” Merakey Allegheny Valley School’s Executive Director, Development & Communications Dorothy Hunter Gordon stated.

So, it seemed natural for The Terrible Towel to become part of another venerable tradition, one that inspires duty and service.

“Nose art on aircraft is a time-honored tradition designed to inspire crews,” explains MSgt Gil Ruffing, Imperial, Pa., current crew chief at the 171st.

Col. Gary A. Jeffries, the JAG at the base in 2006, convinced his artist and sister-in-law, Donna Pitaro Mrdjenovich of Kennedy Township, to take on the assignment to paint the nose art. Since then, she has painted nose art on 81 aircraft, most for the 171st and some for the 911th Airlift Wing also in Coraopolis.

The KC-135T, described as a flying gas station, refuels allied aircraft in midair for the Department of Defense and NATO. The aircraft’s tail number 58-0117 means it left the production plant in 1958 and has been involved in most major campaigns since.

To fully appreciate the capacity of the KC-135T, consider these analogies. A gas station pump operating steadily for 24 hours would not pump as much fuel as the tanker pours through its air refueling boom in eight minutes. And the total fuel carried on a single flight would be enough to last the average driver 46 years.

“I bet my dad would be proud and amazed by how much mileage has been derived from his idea for the benefit of so many people in Pittsburgh and around the world,” said Elizabeth Cope.


Merakey AVS Employees Enjoy a Treat

Employees at Merakey AVS Pittsburgh Campus and Administrative Office enjoyed a homemade treat. On July 24, family member, Mike Pendleton, and his crew of volunteers made more than 400 funnel cakes for all to enjoy! Big thanks go out to Mike and his volunteers – Ron and David Pendleton, and Susie Suffern. Merakey AVS would also like to thank Our Lady of Grace Church for the use of the funnel cake machine.

“The Pendleton’s felt compelled to give back to Merakey AVS to show appreciation for all of the workers and their excellent care giving every day,“ Mike Pendleton commented. “Thank you to all of the staff!”

AVS enjoys a treat!

Kennedy and Zapp Celebrate Summer

Zapp & Kennedy Summer Celebration! On June 29, the Merakey AVS Kennedy and Edward J. Zapp Program Centers in Western PA held their annual Summer Celebration.

Three hundred individuals and staff members dressed in the theme of “away at the beach”. They participated in activities, games, had a picnic lunch and danced the day away. Some of the activities included cookie decorating, BINGO, a petting zoo and cooling-off with homemade slushies.

A great time was had by all!


Day at the Races to Benefit Merakey Allegheny Valley School

Limited edition #305 of 500. Proceeds to benefit Merakey Allegheny Valley School.

$10/ticket -- Get your ticket(s) by Thursday, 8/16 @ 12pm by contacting Kelly Gremba at or 412-299-223.

Payment can be made by cash (in person only), check (to Merakey AVS), or online (note Putter Raffle Ticket) at

The drawing will take place on Saturday, August 18 at the 2018 Merakey AVS Day at the Races.

We are grateful to UBS Event Trustees Louis Sfoza, Lee Oleinick, Chris Butsko, Jack Greenberg for coordinating this fun and unique event to benefit Merakey Allegheny Valley School!


AVS Western Division's Consumer Advocacy Group Picnic in the Park

On July 19, the Consumer Advocacy Groups of Merakey AVS Western Division held a picnic at McDanels Boat Launch at Moraine State Park. Attendees came from Kennedy, Slippery Rock and Zapp Program Centers, Pittsburgh and Patricia Hillman Miller Campuses. Many people took advantage of the beautiful day and spent the afternoon fishing on the lake. Luckily, the fish were biting, and several people made a catch. Some individuals participated in games such as bean bag toss, lawn bowling, and ladder golf. The highlight of the picnic was the “Tony Tunes” sing along concert led by Program Aide Tony Bellassai. Everyone was given the opportunity to sing or play an instrument.

The group enjoyed a huge picnic lunch. Throughout the day, people stopped at the Snow Cone Tent for a cool treat to beat the heat. Members of the Advocacy Groups had a wonderful time seeing old friends and meeting new people. Everyone commented on the beautiful weather and how they couldn’t wait to get together again.

AVS picnic! AVS picnic! AVS picnic! AVS picnic!

Summer Vacation at Lake Erie

For the week of July 8 to the 15, Cheyan, Jessica, Kacey, Kayla, Olivia and Tess from the Merakey AVS Malcolm group home, accompanied by staff members Nancy, Tanisha, Sandy, Dana and Brogan enjoyed a summer vacation at Lake Erie. Their vacation included a wide variety of activities such as fishing, swimming, shopping, dining out and nightly campfires. They also enjoyed visits to the Erie Zoo, Waldameer Park and Presque Isle Beach.

The group is grateful to the Walter F. and Ellen H. Nicoden Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation for supporting this fun and exciting trip.

Summer Vacation at Lake Erie Summer Vacation at Lake Erie Summer Vacation at Lake Erie Summer Vacation at Lake Erie Summer Vacation at Lake Erie Summer Vacation at Lake Erie