Archived News & Events, June 2018


Innovative Technology at Merakey AVS

Merakey AVSOn Wednesday, May 30, Michael Gamel-McCormick, PhD, the Disability Policy Director for Senator Bob Casey, Jr.’s special committee on aging, visited Merakey AVS to learn more about technology innovation in the IDD sector. Merakey’s Technology and Innovation Manager Shaleea Shields organized a day-long visit in the western region to showcase several premier technology projects. Stops included the Slippery Rock and the Edward J. Zapp Program Centers, and our newly opened smart home.

Merakey AVS consumers at each of the locations were thrilled to be able to demonstrate their learning and capabilities through technology,” Shaleea commented. “One demonstration, organized by Program Instructor Eric Patterson, included rocket launching activities in the sensory garden with some of the individuals taking photos and video via an iPad. They will share these images and videos using AbleLink software to relay information about their day to their friends and family members.”

During the visit to Zapp, Program Instructor Karen Miller provided Michael with an overview of her initiatives to continually engage the communication technology program participants in exploration of their community through technology. This interest and learning often culminates in community visits.

During the tour at the smart home, staff members hung back while home resident, Vincent led Michael through the residence, pointing out many of its features, and demonstrating his ability to prepare dinner for his housemates.

We are grateful to have Michael spend his day with the Merakey AVS team that included representatives from operations, communications and IT. We look forward to working together to further technology solutions for people with disabilities.


Merakey AVS Night at the Pirates Game

Friends, family members, consumers and staff members gathered in the Iron City Skull Bar at PNC Park on June 5 to see the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite a rain delay, supporters gathered to socialize and enjoy the beautiful views of the city and PNC Park.

To kick off our 4th annual event, guests cheered on Benjamin Pollon as he was recognized as the On-Field Honorary Pirate Parrot Sidekick. Ben is the son of Merakey Foundation Board Member Dorothy Pollon. He was joined on the field by his mother Dorothy Pollon, Merakey COO Ted Dallas, Merakey Foundation Chairman Mike Mitchell and Executive Director Sylvia Purnell.

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

  • Blackburn’s/Har-kel
  • Climatech
  • Delta-T Group
  • Flagstar Staffing
  • Guardian Protection Services
  • Donna and Terry McNelis
  • Mongiovi & Son
  • Carol and Richard Patterson
  • The Pollon Family
  • Dan Taylor Interiors, Inc.

Thank you to our event donors: Homer Nine and Sons, Inc. and McElroy Paving Co., Inc. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Capital Development Fund, helping to maintain and improve the services we provide to 800 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Pennsylvania.


Special Olympics Summer Games

In May, athletes from Merakey Allegheny Valley School (AVS) participated in the 2018 Allegheny County Special Olympics Summer Games. Individuals competed with their fellow athletes from around the area in various track and field events, wheelchair races, a Motor Activity Training Program and more! Merakey 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. Thanks to all the athletes and staff members who participated in this wonderful day!

Special Olympics Summer GamesSpecial Olympics Summer Games


Pittsburgh Campus Prom

On May 22, Merakey Allegheny Valley School’s Pittsburgh Campus held a prom at the Sheraton in Moon Township. 188 individuals and staff members gathered in the ballroom to enjoy lunch, photos and dancing to the band American Pie. All the participants were dressed in their finest which were topped off with a boutonniere or corsage. It was a magical event that could not have happened without all the departments working together.

Special thanks to the Walter F. and Ellen H. Nicoden Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation for its support of this event.


Takeeia Thomas Receives DSP Award

Takeeia ThomasCongratulations to Takeeia Thomas who received Merakey Allegheny Valley School’s Direct Support Professional award for the Spring 2018 quarter! Takeeia was nominated by five of her colleagues who spoke about her compassion, commitment to the individuals, reliability, strong work ethic, and more. Takeeia has been with Merakey AVS for 20 years.

“This is a great morale booster for staff,” Takeeia commented, who was very surprised by the award and started to cry when presented with the plaque.

The DSP of the quarter award has been made possible through the Steven’s Fund to recognize Merakey Allegheny Valley School Direct Support Professionals. The fund was created in 2017 in memory of Steven Garlick by his mother Betsy Friedman.

To contribute to the fund, visit and include “Steven’s Fund” in the “other” and/or “comments / instructions” box.


Italian American War Vets Host 260 on the Three Rivers

Italian American War Vets Host 260 on the Three Rivers Italian American War Vets Host 260 on the Three Rivers

The Gateway Clipper is one of my favorite outings,” Tim said.

More than 260 people from Merakey and Clelian Heights School for Exceptional Children enjoyed a cruise on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh as guests of the Italian American War Veterans (IAWV). The June 7 journey aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet’s Empress, was the 31st IAWV “Sail for Smiles” cruise.

Guests were greeted by members of the IAWV and the Gateway Clipper staff as they boarded the vessel and settled-in for a 2-hour cruise that featured music by the Red Letter Hymnal Band of Christ Church at Grove Farm, Sewickley.

The warm and sunny weather brought participants to the top deck of the boat to dance and enjoy the city views. The vessel cruised past Station Square, the Carnegie Science Center, PNC Park, Heinz Field and many other well-known spots.

Comments include:
  • Thank you to the Veterans for the invitation. One person commented that he wishes he could go boating all the time. Employees were flattered by the ship captain’s compliments calling Merakey employees… “heroes” – Merakey Greensburg Day Program.
  • “The Veterans came to each table and shook hands with everyone, truly making us feel special,” shared House Manager Diane Sollinger.
  • Lisa, BJ, Della, Andrea and employees shared they had a fabulous time listening to the band and sightseeing our great city! - Merakey AVS Patricia Hillman Miller Campus
  • I loved everything,” Kacey said.
  • I enjoyed the music and listening to the band,” Tess shared.
  • I loved dancing on the boat, and can’t wait to go next year!” exclaimed John Wayne.
  • The gentlemen enjoyed the cruise so much that they were smiling from ear to ear about it and were still talking about it among each other over breakfast the following day,” House Manager Tammy Smith shared.
  • I loved going on the boat with all of my friends,” Petie said.
  • I liked to look at all the buildings they pass in the city,” Dan said.
  • One of the nicest trips ever and we were thrilled to receive a Pirates t-shirt. – Merakey AVS Cedar House.
  • “I want to do it again,” Randy said, who was one of the last ones off the boat!

Patty relayed several times, “This is awesome!” She took many pictures from the top deck and couldn’t wait to tell her friends! This outing was made possible by the Italian American War Veterans and their sponsors and underwriters. We are grateful to the Veterans for their service and for their support of the event. A special shout-out to IAWV National Commander Tony Ficarri for his efforts with the event!


PHMC Executes Emergency Preparedness Plan

PHMC Executes Emergency Preparedness PlanFrom Wednesday evening May 30 to the wee hours of the morning on May 31, Merakey Allegheny Valley School Patricia Hillman Miller Campus (PHMC) executed the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) seamlessly.

Leslie Hill, 3rd Shift Supervisor, without hesitation, initiated the EPP when the entire west end of Pittsburgh was without water due to a water main break. A quick check of the building while calling John Weber, maintenance supervisor, Michelle Miller, Administrator and a quick review of the EPP started the ball rolling. Assisted by John Johnson, IM/RSS, Joe Scrutchins, DCS and Rashawn Green, DCS, Leslie was able to get the water supply quickly distributed from the PHMC warehouse for residents to drink and to take medication. Additionally, large garbage cans were filled with water from the PHMC pool and taken to restrooms for the residents to use.

A “shout out” to the entire 3rd shift staff for their professional, organized and safe response to the water being off while still providing the residents with the appropriate care throughout the night!