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All things Mister Rogers celebrated this week at St. Vincent College

| Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 8:24 p.m.

St. Vincent College is holding a week of activities to mark the 87th anniversary of Fred Rogers' birthday.

The college's first Fred Fest celebration is sponsored by the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media, the St. Vincent College Department of Communication, Alpha Lambda Delta honor society, Fred Rogers Scholars and the college's communications club, MADComm.

Fred Fest kicked off with a sweater drive for charity, inspired by the late children's television innovator's iconic “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” attire.

After collecting 116 sweaters last year in the first sweater drive, organizers set a goal of 143 for the 2015 collection to match Rogers' favorite number — the digits in 143 match the number of letters in each word of “I love you.”

Fred Rogers scholar and Alpha Lambda Delta President Maura Snyder helped organize the first sweater drive last year along with fellow Fred Rogers scholar Alaina D'Aloiso.

“We have a group of students who are seriously interested in studying his work and continuing to move that forward in their various careers,” Fred Rogers scholars adviser Melissa Cook said. “The Fred Rogers scholars can be students from any major, so these kids are going to go out and impact many different fields with the education they're receiving through the Fred Rogers Center and the college from studying his archives, studying his material.”

Four collection boxes for sweaters and other gently used clothing items are available across the campus. Items collected during the drive, which runs through Saturday, will be donated to St. Vincent DePaul in Latrobe, Snyder said.

“Each year, we strive to celebrate Fred Rogers' birthday in a manner that carries his legacy forward,” said Snyder, a sophomore psychology major from Murrysville. “This year's presentation will focus on his impact on modern television programming. Everyone is welcome to attend and experience the Rogers Center located in Fred's very first neighborhood.”

On Wednesday evening, materials from the Fred Rogers Archives will be on display in the Rogers Center ballroom and Rick Fernandes, executive director of the Rogers Center, will make a presentation on the TV host's lasting influence on modern children's media.

“It's a joy to talk about the influence Fred Rogers had on children's television programming,” Fernandes said. “He created the first educational programming in this country and was a powerful advocate for its potential to help young children learn and grow. To share the lessons learned from Fred Rogers' work with students and the greater community is another way to demonstrate his continuing relevance.”

The college will encourage anyone visiting campus to don their favorite sweater Thursday to mark “Mister Rogers' Sweater Day.” Students and visitors can celebrate the anniversary of Rogers' birthday Friday in the Carey Student Center, complete with birthday cake.

Fred Fest concludes Saturday when children ages 3 to 10 are invited to attend “The Sky Over Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” show in the Angelo Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion.

“The big event the Fred Rogers scholars are hosting is the Saturday event with the planetarium show and crafts,” Snyder said. “We have a ton of new crafts lined up, so we're really hoping to get a lot of kids coming to that.”

Reservations for Saturday's activities may be made by emailing tammy.marsh@stvincent.edu.

Further information about Fred Fest is available by contacting Melissa Cook, associate professor of communication, at melissa.cook@stvincent.edu or 724-413-5383.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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