Lego building competition benefits Habitat for Humanity

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As the annual Habitat for Humanity Building Block Blitz was about to begin Saturday, Tristan Fick was distraught.

The 10-year-old from Harrison and Grandview Upper Elementary School in Highlands School District was the only member of his team to show up for the competition. The prospect of building a Lego blocks structure to compete with those of 10 other teams seemed daunting by himself.

But Garrett Frost, 8, also of Harrison, happened to be walking by and jumped in to help Tristan. After about an hour and a half, their creation was nearly finished.

“It's like a future house in space,” Tristan said, smiling.

Garrett, handling a microphone like a pro, explained the house's features, complete with robots and a crash wall for spaceships to the judges. As a result, the team took the top prize for presentation.

The event was held in the Macy's Court at the Pittsburgh Mills mall with teams of youngsters busily working at tables set up in public view. Each team raised money to benefit Habitat in order to compete.

The Rutkowski brothers — Maddox, 9, and Hayden, 10 — of Fox Chapel comprised “Team Rutkowski” and built a multi-level house with a swimming pool in back. They raised about $200 of the $3,175 raised by the 11 teams entered.

“We just went around our neighborhood door-to-door, collecting,” Maddox said.

Joe Guzzo, 11, of Valley Middle School took top honors for fundraising, collecting $453. For his efforts he had his pick of several prizes and chose an autographed jersey of Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal.

“It's the best ever,” said Diane Belitskus, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley. “Best participation, best prizes.”

The teams ranged from the “Martin Mega-Builders” of New Kensington's Martin Elementary School to “The 10th Street Boys” of Oakmont to a group whose members attend St. Scholastica Catholic Church in Aspinwall, aptly named “The Roamin' Catholics.”

The Roamin' Catholics — Jesse Dillon of Indiana Township, and Nathan VanDermark and Brooke Stillion of Aspinwall — took the top prize for “Most Creative” structure.

“It's a lighthouse,” Jesse Dillon explained. “It's solar- and wind-powered. We did the lighthouse because Jesus is the light of the world.”

Asked why he wanted to help Habitat, Nathan, 12, replied, “Because there are people who are out there who don't have a house like we do.”

It's that kind of comment that Belitskus likes to hear.

“(The event) was never meant to be a moneymaker,” Belitskus said. “It was meant to show the kids what Habitat does out in the community.”

She said the proceeds from the event will be used for the extensive renovation of a house on Leishman Avenue in Arnold. That house will become the home of Nicole Fiedor, an eight-year Air Force veteran and single mother of two boys, one of whom is handicapped, Belitskus said.

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