Guests were squealing with delight at the Great Futures Gala held on March 22 at Sheraton Station Square.  This is the third year for the annual Gala hosted by Boys & Girls Club of Western PA, which raises money for their eight full-service branches in Allegheny County.  Club facilities are located in the communities of Carnegie, Duquesne-West Mifflin, Shadyside/East Liberty, Lawrenceville, McKees Rocks, McKeesport, Millvale and Wilkinsburg.  The club is part of a national network of Boys & Girls Clubs united in the mission to “inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need it most, to reach their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens of their community, America, and the world.”

The evening, led by KDKA’s Ron Smiley, showcases the 2017 Youth of the Year, a premier recognition program which celebrates the extraordinary achievements of their Club teens. Club members who earn the title exemplify the values of leadership, service, academic excellence, and healthy lifestyles.  They also serve as a testament to the critical impact that the Boys & Girls Clubs have on the lives of young people.

“Over one million children have walked through our doors over the past 129 years looking for a safe haven from the streets and caring adults,” said Boys & Girls Club of Western PA CEO, Mike Hepler.  “We help these children make their growing up years count, and there is no greater honor and privilege on this earth.”

New this year, Youth of the Year honorees will also be paired with adult members of the community who can share their amazing life experiences and success as each youth embarks upon their own journey and “Great Future”.  Mentors include: Missie Berteotti – 14 year LGPA tour veteran and coach, Singer/Songwriter and Boys & Girls Clubs alum – Vanessa Campagna,  CEO of Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon – Patrice Matamoros,  General Manager of ROOT Sports – Shawn McClintock,  former Steelers linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion – Andy Russell, former Steelers Quarterback, Super Bowl Champion and 15-year NFL veteran – Mike Tomczak and former Steelers defensive back and current judge in Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County – Dwayne Woodruff.

The biggest celebrity of the night by far was Nola, a Miniature Juliana Pig, and household pet of Chris and Lauren Miladinovich.  Nola has committed to raising more than one million dollars for the BGCWPA, and remains the centerpiece of the Club’s Kiss a Pig Fundraiser.  Local residents compete to raise funds for the organization with the top three fundraisers earning the privilege to Kiss Nola center stage at the Gala.

“I am continually humbled by the outpouring of support we receive from our friends in the local areas,” said Mike Hepler.  “Our agency has seen tremendous growth in the need for our services over the past year.  Our membership has grown by 15%, and our members’ daily attendance is up 40%.  Our Kiss a Pig Candidates work hard for many months to raise money to support the young people in our Clubs, and for that, we are truly grateful.”

The celebration includes dinner, drinks, dancing and the chance to win prizes at auctions and raffles.  Special highlights of the gala include performances by Singer/Songwriter Vanessa Campagna, entertainment by Sam Thong Caricatures, and Painting With a Twist.

Please join the Boys & Girls Club of Western PA as they acknowledge all of their Youth of the Year honorees and the following top three fundraisers.  Congratulations to:

  • Ionie Banner – Shadyside Club, Edward J. Ferris, Sr. Memorial Youth of the Year Award Winner
  • Lorin Welsh – Carnegie Club
  • Nathanial Dwayne Mosley, Jr. – Duquesne West Mifflin Club
  • Qiydar Muqtadir – Estelle S. Campbell Club, Lawrenceville
  • Jamar Mosby, Jr. – LaRosa Club
  • Skylar Buchman – Northern Area Club
  • Isaiah Blanchard – Sto-Ken-Rox Club
  • Matthew Zyra – Dapper Dan Athlete of the Year
  • Jackson Blaufeld – Joe Gordon Youth Volunteer of the Year
  •  Jim Barry III, Tom Maglicco and Jared Candelore – Kiss the Pig First Place Fundraiser
  • Chris & Lauren Miladinovich – Kiss the Pig Second Place Fundraiser
  • Dave DiGirolamo – Kiss the Pig Third Place Fundraiser