The Children's Institute Blog

Music Smiles, Thanks To Spirit

Posted: Sep 15, 2017 by The Children's Institute


Before Harry Levicky, a dueling piano player best known for his tenure with Johnny Angel and the Halos, rode the keys of his Korg keyboard into the poppy refrains of “Brown-Eyed Girl,” he provided his audience of young Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh inpatients with instructions.

“You like music, I hope,” Harry said, to a shouted chorus of “YEAH!” in The Day School gymnasium. “I hope that some of this moves you. Sing along! If you want to do some dancing, that’s fine.”

During the quotable bridge of the song, Harry even stopped pounding the keys altogether, leading the audience in the repetition of “Sha-la-la” as he clapped over the Korg’s electronic percussion.

“This requires musicians who are very comfortable making contact,” said Annie Pugar, founder of The Sonny Pugar Memorial, Inc., which funds Music Smiles programs at area hospitals with about 200 artists like Harry. “They don’t have to have a lot of years behind them but it helps. The have to know people. The contacts the people make are just as important as the music.”

“That’s the perk of this,” music therapist Rachel Wanovich said. “They get off the unit and they get to know what it’s like to get excited by a concert.”

Putting on Music Smiles – and other programs like it – at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh would be impossible without Spirit Halloween. Its Spirit of Children fund-raiser, which is about to start for the 2017 Halloween season, has raised $37 million for child-life activities at North American hospitals during the last few years.

At The Children’s Institute alone, Spirit Halloween has donated $212,887 fueled by supporters’ purchases to date. In FY2017, that amount totaled $49,476.

“Without the annual monetary donation from Spirit Halloween, monthly programs like the Music Smiles program for patients and families would not be possible. Even though child life is so critical for patients and families to provide developmentally appropriate activities in an out of the normal environment, these services are non revenue generating. As a result, we rely entirely on donors like Spirit Halloween to provide funding for all of our child life programs, activities, special events, playroom materials, craft supplies, technology items, and gifts for patients for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, etc.” said Sarah Miedel, Manager of the Therapeutic Activities Department.

This year, Spirit of Children is aiming to hit the $8 million dollar mark across North America and they need lots of help to get there. Stay tuned to this blog for information about Spirit Halloween’s philanthropy and how you can support The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh by buying Halloween gear at a local Spirit Halloween!


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