Archived News & Events, October 2018


Stronger Than Hate

Stronger Than Hate

Merakey joins our Pittsburgh area family in mourning the victims of the mass murder at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a diverse and welcoming area of the City.

Three congregations worship at the site – Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha, New Light, and Dor Hadash. Each congregation lost members to hatred on Saturday. Two of the victims – Cecil and David Rosenthal – were supported by our friends at ACHIEVA and were known to members of our community as well.

We are grateful to the first responders who began arriving on the scene within minutes.

We grieve for the lives lost and hope that healing will bring unity and peace.


Exploring Pittsburgh!

Individuals supported by Merakey Allegheny Valley School at the Edward J. Zapp Center have been busy in and around Pittsburgh, PA. They began their last summer trip with a visit to Kennywood Park. Everyone loved the sights and sounds and learning about the history of the park and the region. They also sampled delicious Kennywood treats.

The next stops were to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. The group enjoyed learning about different animal species and their habitats. They explored the new Jungle Odyssey, which is home to capybaras, anteaters, ocelots and even a pigmy hippo. They also stopped at The Islands, filled with clouded leopards, Galápagos tortoises, Philippine crocodiles, and Visayan warty pigs. After looking at all the new exhibits, everyone ate lunch at The Jambo Grill.

In September, they visited the National Aviary, which recently opened an outdoor butterfly garden. Everyone enjoyed finding several butterflies including the monarch, painted lady, swallowtails, and even the buckeyes. They got to hold and even feed the butterflies using a nectar and fruit mixture provided by the Aviary. After the garden excitement, the group had lunch at Atria's Cafe in the Aviary.

Thank you to the Walter F. and Ellen H. Nicoden Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation for funding these exciting trips!

Exploring Pittsburgh
Exploring Pittsburgh
Exploring Pittsburgh

Giving Thanks for the Fall Harvest

On October 11, individuals supported by Merakey Allegheny Valley School celebrated the Jewish holiday of Sukkot at Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh, PA. Rabbi Eli Seidman welcomed participants from Merakey AVS’ Zapp and Kennedy Program Centers and PHMC for a luncheon and Sukkot celebration. After lunch, participants socialized and sang. “I really enjoyed singing karaoke with everyone and had a great time celebrating Sukkot,” Megan commented.

Sukkot is a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts,” and the holiday is a time to give thanks for the fall harvest. It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. During Sukkot, many Jewish people build a sukkah – a small, temporary booth – in their yard where they enjoy meals, entertainment and even sleeping during the seven-day festival. (For more information about Sukkot please visit:

Sukkot! Sukkot!

Thank You, AVS Parents Association!

Allegheny Valley School Parents Association presented a $9,000 donation to the Merakey AVS Capital Development Fund during its semi-annual meeting on October 21. The check was received with gratitude by Merakey’s Chief Executive Officer Joe Martz, Western Region Director Gary Hoffman, and Executive Director, Development & Communications Dorothy Gordon. Since 1988, the Parents Association has contributed more than $218,000!

A meeting highlight was a presentation by Patty Yerina, Coordinator of Education and Outreach from ACHIEVA Family Trust. Patty shared valuable information about future planning for individuals with disabilities. For more information or to download their future planning guide, visit

The meeting also provided updates about recruitment and retention initiatives, program transformation, and advocacy. For more information about the Allegheny Valley School Parents Association contact

Joe Martz with AVS Parents

The Terrible Towel - Built from Legos!

On September 22, as part of STEM Fest at the Mall at Robinson in Pittsburgh, students from Montour Elementary School arranged build the world’s largest The Terrible Towel® from Lego blocks. The students built the words of the Towel, and members of the public were invited to place all the yellow Legos onto the board. When the project was finished, 34,560 Lego blocks had been utilized!

The effort was coordinated by Montour Elementary Co-Principals Jason Burik and Jason Shoaf. The project was submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records and should hear back in a few months if the Towel will be recognized.

The Lego Terrible Towel will remain on display on the upper level of the Mall in front of JCPenney throughout the football season.

Merakey Allegheny Valley School is the proud beneficiary of The Terrible Towel. Since 1996, the royalties from the sale of all officially licensed “Terrible Stuff” (including towels, ties, ornaments, lapel pins, flags, bibs, cookies, temporary tattoos and more) have come to Merakey AVS.

Lego Terrible Towel Lego Terrible Towel
Lego Terrible Towel Lego Terrible Towel

Read more about The Terrible Towel made at STEM Fest:


Friends of Merakey AVS Golf Open

On October 1, Merakey AVS held its 27th annual golf open at Chartiers Country Club. The event raised $130,000 for Merakey AVS programs throughout Pennsylvania that support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During the event, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was honored as the 2018 AVS CHAMPION for its 25 years of performing community concerts at Merakey AVS. Once again, Event Chairperson Rick Mongiovi (Mongiovi & Son) helped to make the event a success. Golf prizes were given to the following winners:

  • 1st place team (score of 55): Roddy Delaney, Tim Hughes, Bryan Regan and David Regan
  • 2nd place team (score of 56): Art Hoopes, Frank Lodovico and John Lodovico
  • 3rd place team (score of 56): Brad Fisher, Stephen Janocha, Evan Keebler and Brandon Moss
  • Longest Drive: Anthony Pastin and Elaine Hoffman
  • Straightest Dive: John Wenner
  • Longest Putt: George Boy Libby
  • Closest to the Pin: Toby Torchia
  • Putting Contest: Tom Blackburn