Western Pa. charities' gift desires fill latest Wish Book

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012

A Wish Book for this holiday season allows donors to fulfill the goals of 42 charities, letting them give a voice to those silenced by disease, help future ballerinas or take a child's mind off cancer.

This marks the seventh year The Pittsburgh Foundation has sponsored the Wish Book, which comes out twice a year. Charities propose gift ideas to the foundation; a committee of donors sifts through them and chooses the best ones for the book.

Last year the Wish Book went online for the first time. This year the foundation delayed the release of the second book until the holidays.

On “Giving Tuesday,” the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, people are encouraged to donate to charities.

“We're doing it during the holidays because this is when people are including charities in their gift-giving,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

He said donors fulfilled about 80 percent of wishes in previous years.

The ALS Association of Western Pennsylvania, a Millvale group that helps people with Lou Gehrig's disease and their families, benefited last year from a donor who gave money for an eye-gaze system. It allows people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, who have lost strength in their arms and hands, to send emails and letters. ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

This year's wish — now fulfilled — consists of two iPads with applications to enable people with ALS to speak, often one of the first abilities they lose.

“Imagine you lost your voice and can't communicate anymore. You don't have any insurance to buy an iPad. We can loan you one for free, and we've just given you the ability to speak. It's life-changing,” said Merritt Spier, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania chapter.

Other gift ideas:

• Urban Impact Foundation in the North Side wants ballet barres, leotards and slippers for children.

• Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund in Irwin seeks a Nintendo gaming system for children dealing with cancer.

• The Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania needs art supplies for clubs in McKees Rocks, Wilkinsburg and McKeesport.

“If you make a donation, you always wonder, ‘Where does my money go?'” said Mike Hepler, president and CEO of the regional clubs. “Special gifts like this are very tangible.”

Donations to the Wish Book must be at least $25. Entire wishes do not cost more than $2,500. For details, visit http://pittsburghfoundation.org/Wish_Book.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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