It was more than ‘A Sweet Gesture’ that brought together over 250 people to support The Family Life Fund’s 4th annual signature event.  There was an air of excitement surrounding these guests, and a palpable passion that came across when they spoke about their recent accomplishments and upcoming projects for 2015.  Just the backdrop of the historic Duquesne Club and the menu itself, salmon and filet mignon, would have been enough to excite any guest.  The theme was a simple one, playing on Valentine’s Day and ‘An Evening for Romance’, but it was the thought that went into every detail of this event that made it a truly exceptional night.

Take for example the hand delivered invitations each guest received that included Duquesne Club macaroons and truffles to set the theme, or the scavenger hunt containing vintage valentines with clues leading to a huge teddy bear won by guest Rachel Lowden. Even the event auction showcased one of a kind items such as the exquisite vintage style diamond ring highlighted by sapphires, uniquely designed for this event by Chapel Hills Jewelry in Aspinwall.   It’s this ‘art’ of taking something so simple and practical and producing mesmerizing results that makes the Family Life Fund stand out.

Dedicated to helping families throughout the region who are coping with a child’s compromised health or well-being, Family Life contributes to programs that help provide education, support and activities to help sustain and heal families.  Their family programming began inside the walls of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as they moved into their new building in Lawrenceville with simple concepts – game days, movie nights, coffee houses, parent journaling support groups and holiday celebrations in the 6 story atrium.  Part of Family Life at Children’s is the Adopt-A-Book program where family members are able to take a book to their room or even home with them, no need to return it!

Family Life benefits from great partnerships with local businesses.  Barnes & Noble has been a tremendous help in assisting with their Adopt –A- Book program.  Gander Mountain also helps in creating an annual ‘Camp In’ experience for Father’s Day in the Children’s Hospital atrium, bringing in faux boulders and camping gear creating a fictional outdoor space.   Nemacolin Woodlands Resort transforms the atrium into a wildlife park each summer and supports all of Family Life’s events with wonderful getaway packages.  With exceptional fundraising and dedicated volunteers, Family Life raised over $860,000 to help implement and fulfill family programming needs for Children’s.   Event Co-Chair Tori Yoos explained that “Family Life’s partnership with Child Life, a staffed department of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC who strive to help patients and families understand and cope with their hospital stay, now continue all of the programming from funds raised by Family Life.”

In 2014, The Family Life Fund decided to expand their scope of support to also assist organizations outside the walls of Children’s Hospital.  A recipient of their 2014 grants included the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic’s Intensive Outpatient Program for children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.  Located at the Franklin Building on the south side of Pittsburgh, funds were used to make improvements to the family waiting room and provide educational literature for the countless families that use it weekly as their children receive therapy.  They also hosted an educational seminar to more than 170 mental health workers with continuing education on how to help families’ better cope with a child diagnosed with OCD.  Their support also extended to Jeremiah’s Place, the only crisis nursery available in Western PA.  With help from the Family Life Fund, parents using the nursery can now attend educational dinner programs focusing on the long term effects of trauma on their children and proactively be connected to local resources for assistance.

This years’ ‘A Sweet Gesture” will help fund important new family support initiatives of the Theiss Early Autism Program, the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program and the Merck ClinicProceeds will support efforts such as ‘parenting tool kits’ and family workshops where successful Applied Behavior Analysis (APA) therapeutic tools used in the classroom, can begin to be transferred to home.  Funds will also help produce educational materials and resources for families dealing with a newly diagnosed or transitioning child in identifying local agency and service providers.

These amazing gifts to countless families and organizations will continue, as supporters look forward to the next fundraiser held in November.  The annual runway event, ‘Fashionista’ which features some of Pittsburgh top designers and includes brunch, mimosas, and a fashion show for women, children & teens as well as boutique shopping.

“Pittsburgh is such an amazing city to rally around a great cause,” said Event Co-Chair Laura Mabon.  “We have been fortunate to have had tremendous help from our local community from companies like rajma.net who helped us with our website, The Rock Group who has helped with graphic design needs, to the incredible corporate sponsors of our events.  We are particularly grateful to our A Sweet Gesture 2015 sponsors:  Bayer MaterialScience, Axa Advisors, Coyote Outdoor Living, Colussy Chevrolet, First National Bank, Ogletree Deakins and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.”

Looks like those ‘sweet gestures’ have come full circle and we couldn’t be happier for the Family Life fund and their new status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization!  For more information on The Family Life Fund or to contribute a donation, visit http://familylifefundpgh.org/.