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Nonprofit Tickets for Kids grows, moves to Blawnox

Tawnya Panizzi

A move to Blawnox for the non-profit Tickets for Kids is expected to increase the group's impact, helping more children develop social skills and self-confidence through access to cultural events.

After 22 years along Freeport Road in Aspinwall, the group moved last week to 700 Blaw Ave.

“We believe that every child should have the chance to see the acrobats of Cirque du Soleil, dig for fossils in a natural history museum, catch a foul ball or hear the music of a live musical,” said Executive Director Jason Riley.

Founded in 1994, Tickets for Kids secures and distributes donated tickets to low-income and at-risk youth through partnerships with more than 3,200 social services across the country.

“We make cultural events available to the most vulnerable in the community. Some kids live in the shadow of the institutions but don't have the opportunity to get inside and in turn, they don't feel included,” Riley said.

Margaret Haselhoff, development coordinator, said the group provided access to cultural resources in 32 states last year, inspiring more kids “to think creatively and dream without limits.”

“The work we're doing isn't just about providing a ticket,” she said.

Over the last year, Riley added two full-time employees, bringing the total to seven full-timers, two part-timers and two summer interns.

Leaders said it was a consideration to stay local, in part because of how successful the group has become thanks to the generosity of Pittsburghers.

Riley said a larger staff will enable his group to continue to look for permanent partnerships with sports arenas or museums.

With one in five children in the United States living below the poverty level, the opportunity is there to make a difference.

“The experience is more than the two hours at the zoo or ballpark,” he said. “It could spark an interest. We want to work with social agencies that can grow that interest. It's so important that kids feel like they belong in the community.”

Ruby Wilkosz, director of Volunteers of America's All of Us Care program in Sharpsburg, said local children benefit routinely.

About 40 children enrolled in her summer enrichment program might take a field trip to a roller skating rink or a tour of the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh, Wilkosz said.

This year, she is planning a trip to PNC Park to coincide with a free Pirates-sponsored program where the children will get free eye exams during their visit.

“The kids get a chance to do things they would very likely not be able to afford otherwise,” she said.

Since its start, Tickets for Kids has distributed more than 1.9 million tickets, worth more than $42 million, Haselhoff said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at [email protected].


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