Archived News & Events, May 2018


Merakey AVS is Off to the Races!

A big thank you to Heather and Paul Siffri for hosting their 6th annual Kentucky Derby Party to benefit Merakey Allegheny Valley School. This year’s event brought the six-year total to more than $70,000!

Heather’s sister is supported by Merakey AVS in the Slippery Rock, PA area. “My sister, Brooke, loves her life at Merakey AVS,” Heather commented. “I am so grateful for the excellent supports she receives, and the compassion and dedication of the staff members. This is one way I can give back to support this organization that means so much to our family.”

With donations contributed by the Siffris’ friends and family members, the Slippery Rock Program Center has expanded their sensory garden, built a walking path, acquired a wheelchair accessible glider, appliances, bikes and much more. Funds from the annual event also support projects at the Merakey AVS home where Brooke lives with her friends.

Hands down, this is one of the best parties of the year!


Allegheny Valley School Parents Association - Spring Meeting

The Allegheny Valley School Parents Association held its semi-annual meeting on April 29. The meeting included updates about Merakey, legislative affairs, coming events, recruitment and more. Merakey Assistant General Counsel Michelle McCoy led a discussion about guardianship mechanics, alternatives and the benefits and challenges to the appointment of a legal guardian.

AVS Parents Association President Tom McGrail announced that Stephan Strunk will be taking over as President. Tom was presented with an award to thank him for his 11 years of service as President of the Parents Association. For more information about the Allegheny Valley School Parents Association, contact Amy Rocini at or 412-299-7777.


A Night to Remember

“I met a new guy and danced with him!” said Kacey.

On May 6, individuals supported by Merakey Allegheny Valley School put on their prom dresses and tuxedos and headed to a Night to Remember formal evening presented by Discovery Christian Church & Diehl Automotive Group.

Every guest entered the complimentary event on a red carpet to a cheering crowd and friendly paparazzi. Once inside, they were given the royal treatment, played games, and danced the night away!

“We played UNO and cards,” commented Olivia. Jessica added, “We played the Wii game and took pictures at the booth.” Cheyan and Kayla shared that they liked the balloon hat they received.

We are grateful for this event which enriched the lives of the individuals supported by Merakey AVS.


Celebration of Success Luncheon

Congratulations to Dyrue McGee and Genevieve Verbonach who were honored at the Richard C. Frech Celebration of Success Luncheon on May 9. The luncheon honored and shared the successes of 21 people and recognized the positive aspects and accomplishments of those who live and work in the community. Dyrue and Genevieve each received an Achievement Award.

Jennifer Edwards shared with guests that Dyrue is an extremely happy individual who likes to dance and laugh throughout the day. His eyes light up when others communicate with him. He now maintains eye contact throughout a conversation and seems to have an increase in attention span. Dyrue enjoys going out and meeting new people!

Thank you to Marge Campbell, Brittney Collins, Laura Cox, Jennifer Edwards, Julia Kenzevich, Kim Sonafelt and Armand Zottola for coming to the event to cheer on Dyrue.

Emily Nickles shared with guests that Genevieve’s personality is blossoming and she is developing friendships with her housemates. During the day, she attends CARES day program where she volunteers in the community and explores educational and recreational ventures. Genevieve works at TJ Maxx where she accepts guidance and applies it on the job. Her goal is to one-day work with children or to open a bakery. Genevieve’s brother, Aaron Verbonach, and uncle, Ron Verbonach attended the event and commented that Genevieve is a caring and loving person. Her hugs will always cheer you up!

Genevieve’s friends, Cierra and Wendy, along with Emily Nickles, Tracy Olivani, Susan White and Amy Rocini shared in Genevieve’s honor.

We are so proud of the accomplishments of Dyrue and Genevieve!

Success Luncheon #1 

Communication Technology Visits Phipps

Merakey AVS Individuals from the Communication Technology Program at the Zapp Center got to explore the Spring Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory.

Everyone loved finding their favorite flowers and learning all about new and exciting plants and their "funny names,” as some commented. Individuals also socialized with one another while eating lunch at the Phipps Café.

Thanks are due to the Walter F. and Ellen H. Nicoden Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation for helping to fund this amazing outing.


Representative Kulik Visits Merakey Allegheny Valley School

kulik Merakey Allegheny Valley School was delighted to host Pennsylvania Representative Anita Astorino Kulik on April 25. It was a wonderful morning spent visiting the Zapp Center, Pittsburgh Campus, and the new Merakey AVS Smart Home. The programs thank her for spending the morning with them and for her interest and support.


Best Buddies Friendship Walk

Best Buddies Friendship Walk The Friendship Walk was held on April 21 at Highmark Stadium, Home of Pittsburgh's Riverhounds soccer team. The event kicked-off with a delicious breakfast. After the opening announcements and awards, the crowd began their one mile walk along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. As they walked, they enjoyed the views of downtown Pittsburgh and cheering from supporters along the way, including cheerleaders from area schools.

After the walk, everyone enjoyed a cookout-style lunch donated by Sysco. Our group soaked in some sunshine as they shared some laughs with their friends and talked about their week. They enjoyed being on the Riverhounds field shooting hoops, dancing as the DJ played popular dance music, visiting different team booths for Best Buddies bracelets, cups, noise makers and more.

The Buddies enjoyed the Friendship Walk - and other events throughout the year, making it a year of creating memories, sharing laughs and building friendships that count!

The Merakey AVS team was thrilled to wear their new Best Buddies t-shirts which were funded through the Walter F. and Helen H. Nicoden Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation.