The Children's Institute Blog

"I will be amazing." Christopher Wolfendale & His Story of Amazing Growth

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 09, 2020

"I will be amazing." Christopher in 1997 and 2019
Christopher Wolfendale added a new energy to our work in 1997 when he spoke four powerful words - "I will be amazing." - during the award-winning Amazing Kids advertising campaign. He was a 14-year-old student in The Day School at the time. This seemingly simple sentence was truly visionary, not just for Christopher's life, but for the continuing evolution of our organization, which was renamed The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh the following year. In 1998, after 95 years of cultivating our expertise to best serve those with disabilities, we reaffirmed our highest priority - to promote the wellbeing of children, young people, and their families.

We knew then that Christopher had great potential - and so did he. Now, 23 years later, he personifies our mission statement: To Heal. To Teach. To Empower. To Amaze. It has been our privilege to share life's journey with the Wolfendale family. Read More...

Amazing Volunteers: Michael Mokotoff

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 08, 2020

Volunteer Michael
Amazing Kids. Amazing Place. At The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, we have built our legacy on being "amazing." After more than a century of the highest quality care and service to children and their families, we are forever proud of our team members who don't just make a career here - they make a difference. With strong partnerships in our communities, we are honored and proud to include many dedicated volunteers as part of that team. Volunteers play a vital role in each of our program areas and we thank those individuals who so graciously give their time, talent, and abilities to help us as we continue pursuit of our mission: To Heal. To Teach. To Empower. To Amaze. The hours each volunteer contributes is truly an amazing gift to the children and families we serve.

Today, we highlight Michael Mokotoff who has volunteered at The Children's Institute for over a decade. Read More...

“Presents from Police” Pack Squad Cars and Deliver Holiday Joy

Posted by The Children's Institute - Dec 21, 2019

Group Photo - Presents from Police stand under sign at The Children's Institute
“Presents from Police” – a toy drive effort started by local law enforcement over a decade ago and continuing strong today – made a special visit to The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. While the visit brings smiles to students of The Day School at The Children’s Institute and brightens outpatient areas, police officers also find great joy in the visit. Read More...

Ray Wojszynski Gives the Gift of Music

Posted by The Children's Institute - Dec 06, 2019

Life was humming along for the Wojszynskis in early 2014. Ray had recently retired, and he and his wife were making big plans for their Golden Years. But the tempo changed that November when Ray was diagnosed with lymphoma, followed by his wife's diagnosis of ovarian cancer shortly after his cancer went into remission. The two of them drove past The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh often on their way to chemotherapy treatments at Hillman Cancer Center.

"I won my battle, but she lost hers," reflects Ray. "I wondered, 'What am I supposed to do now?'"

It didn't take Ray long to find an answer. After donating his slightly used electronic drum kit to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind, followed by two brand-new 88-key electronic pianos, Ray made his first donation to The Children's Institute in January 2017. Read More...

Overcoming Challenges: Eddie's Story

Posted by The Children's Institute - Nov 29, 2019

Eddie smiling
Eddie was born on June 6, 2012, weighing just 4 lbs. 6 oz. After a normal, full term pregnancy, nobody expected him to be that small. Eddie spent his first 12 days in the hospital having test after test. He spent the next five years enduring numerous doctor's appointments, long hospital stays, and endless therapy sessions.

Today, at age seven, Eddie is 100% tube fed with an extreme oral aversion. He is non-verbal and does not communicate, with a severe intellectual disability. He can walk using a walker, but is very unstable, needing guidance as he moves.

While Eddie does not have a specific diagnosis, he shows signs of cerebral palsy. He was also diagnosed in March of 2017 with epilepsy and his care team is working hard to keep his seizures under control. 

However, despite his challenges, Eddie is a happy, playful little boy. Read More...

Hope for the Holidays

Posted by The Children's Institute - Nov 20, 2019

STAR 100.7 radio station filled with gifts, Kelly from STAR 100.7 stands with Bethany Leas of Project STAR
It's amazing how love from a stranger can restore holiday hope to a vulnerable family. This is the mission of the Hope for the Holidays gift drive of Project STAR at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh.

"Our families are dealing with so many challenges," explains Bethany Leas, Assistant Director of Project STAR. "We know firsthand that they wouldn't have a holiday without our help because their focus is on securing the most basic necessities - so we provide Christmas for them."

The holiday gift drive supports families in Project STAR's four-county region who are receiving intensive family support services, as well as those in the foster care and adoption programs. Older youth living in group facilities are also served. Read More...

The Tadler Family of Five

Posted by The Children's Institute - Nov 05, 2019

Tadler family laughing and smiling
Life moves fast in the Tadler household. Molly, the third grader, does homework before softball practice and eagerly anticipates her weekend guitar and horseback riding lessons. Sister Corrina, age 4, can't wait to start her own riding and music lessons as soon as she is old enough. For now, she is busy with preschool and T-ball and her favorite cartoon character, Peppa Pig. Little Alice - called Ally - recently turned 2. She has plenty of energy to keep up with her sisters and take care of her menagerie of stuffed animals, most of them bunnies named "Bunny."

"I love being the father of three girls," says John Tadler, a Lieutenant for the Allegheny County Police Department. "I can't imagine life any other way."

John and Mary Tadler were in their 40s when they married, and after their daughter Molly was born in September 2009, they were unable to have another biological child. Motivated by the feeling that their family wasn't complete, the couple began thinking about adoption, which ultimately led them to Project STAR at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh. Read More...

Growing into a Lifechanger

Posted by The Children's Institute - Oct 29, 2019

Jacob Haugh smiling
A few weeks before Jacob, who has autism, turned nine in the Spring of 2015, Jacob's parents asked him what he wanted for his birthday. A very mature "I have everything I need," was his reply.

"Our response - a teachable parenting moment about giving back to others - has evolved into an incredible fundraising journey for Jacob and the rest of our family," says Megan, his mom. Read More...

Pascal Completes the Intensity Program During Spina Bifida Awareness Month

Posted by The Children's Institute - Oct 25, 2019

Pascal on tricycle, smiling
Born with Spina Bifida

“My husband and I were so excited at our 20 week ultrasound to find out the gender of our baby. Our world was rocked when the technician said, ‘Your child has Spina Bifida. It is a birth defect in which the spine does not fully close when developing. Your child will probably not be able to walk and it looks as though he will need a shunt.’ She continued on with more potential issues and a grim outlook on his diagnosis,” said Emily Gasse of Pittsburgh.

Pascal with his mother Emily “We found hope at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After extensive testing, it was determined that we qualified for fetal surgery. Closing the lesion before the baby is born prevents further damage to the spine, allows the baby to heal before birth, and has also proven to eliminate the need for a shunt. This is the option we chose, and even though there is no cure for Spina Bifida, the surgery seemed to save some of the function that otherwise might have been lost. We were also fortunate to avoid the need for a shunt. Our beautiful baby boy, Pascal, was born happy and healthy! We weren’t sure yet if he would walk, but we loved watching him kick his legs!” said Emily of her happy boy who now loves to play with cars and Mickey Mouse. Read More...

Amazing Therapists at Sienna's Happy Place

Posted by The Children's Institute - Oct 15, 2019

Sienna with toy in therapy pool

In honor of National Physical Therapy Month and Down Syndrome Awareness Month this October, we invited the mother of one of our amazing kids to share her honest, heartfelt, and inspiring story in her own words. Read on to learn more about her daughter, Sienna, and why The Children's Institute is her happy place. 

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