United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s sixth annual Build-A-Bike volunteer event was held on June 19. The event is a chance to teach children healthy exercise habits and patience.

By Amanda Andrews

Heinz Field’s UPMC Club was filled to the brim with 150 children aged 8 to 10, many of whom were receiving their first bicycles, at United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s sixth annual Build-A-Bike volunteer event on June 19. A total of 400 volunteers, including 75 corporate volunteer teams helped at the event, which was sponsored by UPMC and Northwestern Bank. 

The children receiving bikes were chosen from underprivileged communities and generally, from financially struggling households in neighboring areas like Butler, Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties. They were selected by partner organizations which specialize in mentoring and social service programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

New United Way CEO Bobbi Watt Geer, 53, was heading the Build-A-Bike event for the first time. 

“We really want to provide guidance. One of the critical areas of focus for United Way is helping children be successful in life, and part of that is that they’re healthy as well. This is a way that some children can establish some healthy habits with a bike [and] be able to get regular exercise, but also it’s a mentoring opportunity,” said Geer. “…The volunteers who are here help teach teamwork and collaboration.” 

Volunteers assisted the children in building and testing the bikes to verify their safety. A helmet station was set up, and each child was provided with one. 

The event is one of United Way’s most popular and took up the entire second floor of Heinz Field’s UPMC Club this year. Laura Miller, a senior associate at UPMC and a Good Neighbor Committee Member of United Way, is a mother herself and was very excited to mentor the children and build their bicycles. 

“[The kids] are just excited to participate and help,” said Miller. “I’m really involved in United Way, but I had never been to [this] event, and I made it a priority to come to this one.” 

United Way will be hosting its third annual Games for Good event on August 8 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.