(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
In the late spring of 2004, the City of Pittsburgh was in a dire fiscal crisis. As a result, all 31 community swimming pools and recreation centers were set to close. Throughout the city, this meant no summer at the pool for thousands of kids, no outings for families, and no activities for seniors who relied on the rec centers to help them stay active. Beyond that, the summer food programs providing meals at these centers would be forced to stop, taking away the daily sustenance many people relied on.
With fewer than sixty days before school was out for the summer, John Denny developed a plan. Working with civic leader Elsie Hillman, John drove the effort to obtain buy-ins from corporate, public, and private foundation leaders, quickly establishing the Save Our Summer campaign, or S.O.S. ’04. This effort focused on raising funds quickly to keep these important assets open during the heat of summer.
Working with these foundations, the city’s Department of Recreation, and members of City Council, the campaign raised nearly $1 million in 30 days and was successful in keeping 16 of the city pools and recreation centers open, prompting the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to recognize S.O.S. ’04 for “bailing out the city.”
Beyond the short term success of the Save our Summer campaign, Denny worked with city- and state-appointed fiscal watchdogs to create a community-based, long-term funding solution for the City’ s summer pool program.
Today, the City of Pittsburgh operates 16 community pools and recreation centers during the summer months, offering the joys of summer to residents across Pittsburgh and a respite from the heat for thousands of young people, families, and the elderly.