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Bethel Park native is a woman on a mission

Carolyn Miles wishes she had time to catch a Steelers game at Heinz Field, but she has more important things to do.

The Bethel Park native is on a mission: taking care of the world’s most vulnerable children through her work as vice president and chief operating officer of Save the Children, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve the lives of children.

“I really love Pittsburgh and it’s great to always come back and visit my friends and family,” she said during a recent visit.

Miles, 49 — a married mother of three — lives in Fairfield, Conn., but grew up in Bethel Park. Her parents, Ed and Nancy Speer, are retired and live in Eighty Four. Her brother, Dave Speer, lives in Upper St. Clair.

Miles was in Pittsburgh to address the World Affairs Council on pneumonia outbreaks in developing countries.

“It’s simply unacceptable that 8 million children under the age of 5 are lost to pneumonia, when it is such a preventable illness through vaccination and antibiotics,” she said.

Her international experience began shortly after business school, when American Express employed her as a marketing specialist. She and her husband, Brendan, worked in New York City when the company asked her to transfer to its international division. She accepted, and they headed to Hong Kong.

Just before moving in 1992, Miles learned she was pregnant with their first son, Keegan.

“Neither one of us had ever lived abroad before, so naturally we were a little nervous, but Hong Kong ended up being a wonderful place to have kids — and they loved the experience,” she said of Keegan and their second son, Patrick.

The family traveled extensively in the Far East. During a visit to the Philippines, she met her destiny while taking a taxi from the airport to the hotel. They passed a woman holding a baby as the car slowed in traffic, and the women’s eyes met.

“Here I was holding my 6-month-old son in this nice car, and here was this woman holding her baby, about the same age as my son, on this dirt road, looking tired and hungry. As we looked at each other, that’s when it hit me — how is it that one child can be born into great poverty and another born into great privilege?” she said. “That’s when I knew I had to do something to help children less fortunate.”

Before moving back to the States in 1997, she and her husband adopted a girl, Molli, from Vietnam. Once settled in Connecticut, Miles applied for a marketing position with Save the Children and found the job suited her perfectly.

“Both my international and professional experience helped me to prepare for this job. The working environment is very collaborative and mission-focused, and there’s lots of ways the public can help,” she said. “So much of what we do includes helping families so they can help themselves.”

No matter where her job takes her, she doesn’t forget her roots.

“I’m looking forward to spending some time with my parents and brother before heading out again. Working for Save the Children is a very hard job, but it’s the best job in the world,” she said.

Find out more

For information on Save the Children, visit savethechildren.org .


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