NEXT Up: Heather Hopson

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Spend a week with Heather Hopson, communications director for Allies for Children—from working to improve the well-being of all children and youth in Allegheny County and posting on her award-winning parenting blog, to winding down at her favorite Thai restaurant.

Monday, February 9

Today kicks off the #BurghBaby Diaper Drive blog campaign. About a dozen Pittsburgh area mom bloggers are donating their time and talents to promote the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank’s month long drive. I’m managing the campaign, so I plan to log onto their websites and share their stories on social media to promote the drive, which runs February 1-28 (read about the campaign in Kidsburgh). We’re collecting diapers (or the funds to purchase them) to address the diaper need in the Pittsburgh area.

After work, I’ll head to my sister’s house, so she can bake a batch of princess cupcakes with my three-year-old daughter—who is a princess herself and rules our family. My sister inherited the cooking gene from our mother—Martha Stewart’s twin—and runs a baking business called The Cupcake Crew. I’ll videotape the experience for my blog to promote our upcoming #DisneySide Celebration. Since I rarely cook, I’ll raid my mom’s refrigerator while in Penn Hills!

Tuesday, February 10

Allies for Children Executive Director Patrick Dowd and I will head to Brookline to meet with community partners and develop a child advocacy agenda. As part of the Kidsburgh Community Initiative, we’ll look at what must be done to make growing up in the Pittsburgh region a more positive experience for kids. We’ve embedded ourselves into Millvale, the Hilltop and now Brookline, to find out how organizations and individuals positively impact children and what they think must be done to create more kid-friendly communities. I’ll also connect with project partners, Jessica Kaminsky and Ryan Hoffman at Hear Me, Ryan Coon at The Sprout Fund and Tracy Certo at NEXTpittsburgh. They’re documenting the work with audio recordings, videos and articles.

I have a lot of family members in Beltzhoover, so I’ll probably pop in to say hello while in the southern part of town. My grandparents celebrated 65 years of marriage and welcomed 15 children and 30+ grandchildren into their home. There’s always a full house, since many of my aunts adopt and foster kids. You can feel the legacy of love in the air as soon you open the door!

Wednesday, February 11

In the morning, I’ll join a conference call with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. I co-chair the statewide campaign’s communications committee. The campaign wants to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to change how public schools are funded, so we can meet the needs of everyone—including students who live in poverty, who are experiencing homelessness or who are English Language Learners.

Thursday, February 12

In the afternoon, I’ll head to WQED-TV—one of my favorite places in the city since I used to brag to college friends about living in Mister Roger’s neighborhood—for the Kidsburgh Advisory Committee meeting. We’re all about making Pittsburgh–aka Kidsburgh–the best place on the planet to raise kids.

After work, I’ll spend time with my favorite Kidsburgh resident—my daughter. My family dubbed me the activity mom, because play dates are a fixture on our calendar. We’ll probably pop into an indoor play ground, like Giggles & Smiles, and then get take out from Smiling Banana Leaf, our favorite Thai restaurant, located in Highland Park. Soon, we’ll have a third party join us when we are matched through the Amachi Pittsburgh mentoring program. Can’t wait!

Friday, February 13

I’m waking up before the sun comes up to visit beloved crossing guards in the City of Pittsburgh. My colleague Mara Christy and I will interview and photograph the group of men and women to promote a study that examines how crossing guards help ensure safety, serve as mentors and reduce chronic absenteeism. This is in partnership with the United Way of Allegheny County’s Be There campaign.

Then I’ll head to a Healthy Together leadership team meeting to discuss the campaign’s progress toward meeting its goal of insuring all children and families in the City of Pittsburgh. We’ll talk about upcoming enrollment events, communications strategies and policies needed to identify uninsured children.

Saturday, February 14

I’m taking a road trip with my family to the other side of the state. My daughter and I will end up at Chuck E. Cheese (her favorite spot) or the Please Touch Museum in Fairmont Park. We spend tons of time at the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh, so I’m sure this will be a fun, learning experience for her.