Archive for March, 2010

A Chain of Charity
March 20, 2010

It was one of the highlights of the Oscar Bash for the Pittsburgh Film Office two weeks ago. Getting to meet two of the most remarkable young women in our area, who have grabbed both headlines and hearts since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Jamie and Ali McMutrie. The photo, from left to right, is Jamie’s husband, Doug Heckman, Jamie, me, Jamie’s younger sister, Ali, UPMC’s Leslie McCombs, and brilliant blogger, Virginia Montanez, a wonderful supporter of Jamie and Ali.  Their work in Haiti to rebuild the orphanage continues, but it is hampered by the dramatic drop-off in charitable interest. There seemed to be a  a spasm of compassion the week after the quake, and now donations to the region have dropped off–some say by as much as 75 percent. But the sisters, and their supporters, like Leslie,  continue to work tirelessly to find homes for orphans not yet placed, and continue orphanage work in Haiti. At the same time, there are other charitable organizations in Haiti that  have Pittsburgh connections, and are striving to cope with the long-term disaster effects on one of the poorest countries on the planet.  This is a photo from Hospital Albert Schweitzer,  founded, managed and supported by people from our area. It is 40 miles from Port-au-Prince and has become a major health care facility

in the quake’s aftermath. Just last week, they announced they have opened a long-term prosthetic and rehabilitation center in partnership with the Haitian Amputee Center. A friend of mine, Bridget Miller, is one of the many from this region who can’t imagine how hellish life there must be now. Back in 2003, she moved there to work for the hospital, leaving behind a pretty comfortable life for several years. Many of us think about going, we send our money, but it is the McMutries’ and people like Bridget, who sacrifice so much more. They contribute a part of their lives. And while I am talking about hospitals and heroes, the man in this picture is a hero to so many parents whose children suffer from cystic fibrosis, and other lung diseases.  Geoff Kurland is a pediatric pulmonologist, who has his own courageous story. His book,  My Own Medicine, chronicles his victory over cancer, over two decades ago. Geoff was diagnosed with a rare leukemia, that has a low survival rate. He fought it and won, and has been in remission for 21 years. The gorgeous woman next to him is his wife, a Teaching Professor at CMU in architecture and public policy. This was a celebration by the many fellows he has guided at Children’s Hospital through the years.

Another person whose life is a mission of charity, that has made Pittsburgh a better place.


30 Years
March 4, 2010

It was the night they won–the Miracle On Ice Team. My then-husband and I had arrived in Pittsburgh, a day ahead of the moving van, and settled into a hotel in Monroeville, to discover the impossible had happened. The USA Hockey team had beaten the dreaded, overwhelmingly favored Soviets. We waited eagerly for the game to be shown later in the evening. Both of us  had connections to hockey, having become  friends with players for the Birmingham Bulls, a number of who had gone on to the NHL.

That my 30 year anniversary in Pittsburgh should coincide with another USA Olympic team, playing in a gold medal game, is fitting. To sit in the sports department, screaming wildly for Zack Parise and his tying goal. To collapse almost in unison with the fallen figure of Ryan Miller as Pittsburgh’s beloved Crosby of Canada dashed the hopes of the scrappy, young USA team. Surrounded by my co-workers, it was an appropriate exclamation point to three decades of amazing sports experiences, lasting and enriching friendships, and an appreciation for a culture of champions that runs deep in this city.

It was why I decided to come. The vision of The Chief beckoned, during a pre-game Super Bowl interview-talking about the friendliness of the people. People with whom I have shared Super Bowls, Stanley Cups, and MLB Division Championships (I missed the 79 World Series by half a year).

Now, 30 years later, I am sitting across from another remarkable Pittsburgh figure, Coach Dan Bylsma–not even 40–a winner of the Stanley Cup in his first year of coaching?!

And watching  an ESPN interview with Sidney Crosby, someone a number of us in the newsroom have had the pleasure to meet. The Face of Hockey, and a self-effacing one at that.

There have been remarkable, sometimes wrenching, news stories. Shanksville, Quecreek, Ivan, The Blizzard of ’93. Senseless, murderous rampages, heartwarming stories about the courage of children, the strength of charity,  and the birth of elephants and wild dogs. The list goes on and on. For all of us who are fortunate to cover the news in the City of  Three Rivers, it has been a rich tapestry of events.

Thank you to all of you who have shown  such good will and uncommon kindness. I intended to come for 3 years, and wisely, made it 27 more.