Sponsor a kid or young adult in Connecting Champions
Donate to Sponsor a teen like Mackenzie
While talking about the weather may be idle small talk for most people, for our friend Mackenzie, it is the source of much passion and excitement! Mackenzie's face lights up at the mention of a weather front or possible pop up thunderstorm, and she's happy to share her own predictions and weekly forecasts. When we told her Ashley Dougherty of WTAE Pittsburgh wanted to invite her out the the studio, she was beside herself with anticipation.
Mackenzie and her family drove down from Titusville early one morning to meet Ashley at WTAE studios before one of Mackenzie's appointments at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Nervous about meeting a weather superstar, Mackenzie was rather quiet at first taking in every aspect. Ashley, ever warm and welcoming, greeted the family with hugs and some surprise swag, proceeded by a tour of her workplace.
Mackenzie was in awe of the technology used in the studio (her second love after weather is buttons and gadgets!) and was fascinated when Ashley showed her how weather predictions actually happen! They spent some time in front of the green screen practicing their broadcast skills. Next time Mackenzie visits, they plan on recording her own (un-aired) weather segment... and they plan on having a green tablecloth handy to turn her into a floating head!
Donate to Sponsor a kid like Jackson
Jackson is passionate about trains, so when he went to visit the Science Center in June he gravitated towards the model train exhibit. There he met an orange vested train buff who carefully explained how the mechanisms controlling the trains worked. He held out to Jackson miniatures of train cars and pointed out the stylistic differences to the awe-struck boy. Jackson, who finds walking difficult, was braced against the railing encircling the train table. Despite the difficulty, he managed to spend most of his day at the Science Center on his own feet, helped by his mother, who tries to make him walk as often as possible in order to exercise the muscles of his legs.
Jackson’s parents were extremely happy that Connecting Champions was able to provide for outings that catered to his interests and made the task of walking easier. Thankfulness radiated from both parents as they watched their son making his way carefully around the train table, hands wrapped around the supports. Jackson’s father took many pictures to commemorate the event, standing to the side with a big smile as his son excitedly pointed at train cars and toggled the switch that controlled some of them. Watching the trains was a treat for Jackson, who marveled at their carefully choreographed movements and lit up every time Thomas the Tank Engine came back into view.
By the end of his two and a half hours at the science center, Jackson had learned much about trains, and was even presented with a bright red Lionel train car by the train conductor. Jackson left the Science Center clutching his new model train and eager to return to the Science Center for another trip.
Donate to Sponsor a young adult like Shania
Business savvy, ambitious Shania isn't letting anything, including cancer, stand in the way of her dreams. At 21 years old, Shania is a junior at IUP studying business. When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, she immediately answered without hesitation, "own and operate a beauty salon." With a passion for fashion and an entrepreneurial mindset, she's already leagues ahead of most young women her age.
When we told her the famous nail artist and salon owner, Aliya Wray, wanted to meet her, Shania was beyond excited.
When Shania and Aliya first met, they talked for almost three hours straight. Aliya spoke about her background and shared her wisdom on starting and growing a successful business in the age of social media. Aliya gave Shania tips for getting her YouTube channel off the ground, and even gave Shania a sneak peak at her brand new location in Pittsburgh's Southside.
Before parting Aliya gave Shania a gift bag full of Aliya Wray swag, including a set of custom press on nails, a satin hair bonnet, and one of her "Girl Boss" t-shirts. The two finished their "date" with a trip to the Milk Shake Factory, and Aliya invited Shania to her upcoming soft opening of the brand new shop!
Donate to Sponsor a teen like Michael
When you're as big a Penguins fan as our friend Michael, there's no place you'd rather be on a Thursday evening than cheering on the Pens as they defeat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1.
With an interest in sports broadcasting, it was a special evening for Michael when he received the invitation to attend a Penguins game as the special guest of Pens broadcaster, Steve Mears.
Michael and his dad received two tickets to the game, as well as a behind the scenes look at the broadcasting booth, and a view into the world of professional sports broadcasting. Michael toured the booth with Steve, asked questions, and learned a bit about what it's like to work in pro hockey. Michael was surprised that Steve has so much homework to do before each game, although he said he "didn't think his homework was so hard because it was about something so fun"-- when you love what you do, "work" doesn't feel so much like work.
Michael had a great time meeting Steve Mears. He was really impressed by Steve's broadcasting set up and enjoyed learning about a field that interests him as a career. His favorite part of the evening was getting to watch the game from his amazing seats in The Club. Michael said Steve definitely has the best seats in the house!
Donate to Sponsor a kid like Sawyer
After Sawyer and Matt's first meeting during one of Sawyer's treatments at UPMC Children's Hospital, these two couldn't wait to get together again! During their first visit, Matt brought a few fossils for Sawyer to examine, they discussed some of Matt's discoveries, and Matt promised a behind the scenes look at his workplace -- The Carnegie Museum of Natural History!
With clearance from his doctors, the day finally came when Sawyer could meet Matt in his world. Sawyer and family made the 3-hour trek into town, brimming with excitement, to go on their journey through prehistoric time.
Included in the day's adventure was a trip to the "Big Bone Room" (actual name), where Sawyer got to see the very first T-Rex jaw bone ever discovered, an inside look at how fossils are prepared for display, as well as a personal tour of the museum by Matt, who discovered many of the dinosaurs on display.
This young paleontology fanatic definitely went home with a smile on his face and dinos in his dreams.
Donate to Sponsor a kid like Addison
Addison's three favorite things are dancing, singing, and showing anyone who will watch how much she loves dancing and singing! We found the perfect mentors for her -- two musical theatre students at the University of Pittsburgh. Addison couldn't wait to meet her new friends, Julia and Juliana. She was excited to have a new audience to show off her moves to and who whooped and cheered her on at every turn.
The fun didn't stop after Addison ran out of moves! These new friends spent the Saturday afternoon coloring, telling stories, signing autographs, and "oooing and awwwing" at Addison's Halloween costume. Everyone left with smiles on their faces and full hearts, looking forward to the next time they get to meet.