Dr. Susan Williams

Campaign Chair, Dr. Susan Williams, Chief Medical Officer for Conemaugh Health System announces the official start to the 2019 United Ways of the Laurel Highlands annual fundraising campaign on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, at the Living and Learning Center on the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus.

The United Way of the Laurel Highlands officially launched its 2019 fundraising campaign at a breakfast event Thursday morning, and the organization’s leader said its goal is to raise more than $1.3 million before the campaign concludes.

Bill McKinney, president and CEO of the United Way of the Laurel Highlands, said after the conclusion of the breakfast, which was held at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s Living-Learning Center, that he and his fellow campaign organizers hope to beat the $1.3 million mark that they set last year.

“We got off to a great start today,” he said.

Pamela Tokar-Ickes, the organization’s board chair, announced during the breakfast that $35,000 was raised for the campaign during last week’s “Power of the Purse” purse raffle event in Johnstown. McKinney described that as an “amazing” jump up from the $25,000 that was raised during last year’s installment of the annual event.

Also during Thursday’s breakfast, Dr. Susan Williams, Conemaugh Health System’s chief medical officer and the United Way of the Laurel Highlands’ 2019 fundraising campaign chair, presented a $10,000 donation to the campaign from Conemaugh Health System.

“We’ve actually had some campaigns out in the school districts, as well, and they’ve been higher than in prior years, so there’s a lot of good momentum,” McKinney said.

Information provided by the organization in a press release indicates that more than $100,000 has already been raised for the campaign from school districts, companies and individuals.

According to the press release, the money raised during the campaign “will be invested in specific programming to address long-term initiatives … to prepare all children socially, emotionally and academically for kindergarten; to increase parental knowledge of child development and care; and to prevent substance abuse among our youth.”

The keynote speaker at Thursday’s breakfast was Michelle Figlar, vice president of learning at the Heinz Endowments, a Pittsburgh-based charitable foundation. She urged the United Way of the Laurel Highlands’ leaders and supporters to “stay the course” and to continue working in the community to further their goals.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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