Grow Up Great initiative makes it a great day at Learn N Play

Grow Up Great initiative makes it a great day at Learn N Play
Dave Mast

Members of PNC begin to construct the equipment PNC donated to Learn N Play in Wooster. The donation was part of PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative.


For the staff at Learn N Play in Wooster, at the forefront is providing a nurturing educational opportunity. While that is something they provide on a daily basis, there are plenty of physical needs that accompany the weekly routine.

Sometimes because funding is short, some of those needs go unmet.

For Learn N Play, that unfulfilled wish list was met recently when members of PNC Financial Services Group and United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties paid a surprise visit on Tuesday, April 23.

“We are celebrating a great day at Learn N Play,” said Jennifer Fox, director of client community relations for PNC.

Fox serves as the market leader for PNC’s philanthropic focus, a focus which turned its attention to Learn N Play through its Grow Up Great initiative. “We are excited to be able to supply them with five new iPads, 200 books. We have $3,000 worth of Lakeshore learning material, which we will be assembling in their playground area.”

Learn N Play has been a PNC Grow Up Great partner now for seven years. Fox also is a member of the United Way of Wayne and Holmes County board, and through that she heard Learn N Play was in need of the aforementioned items but could not afford them.

That set up a receiving day for the learning center that Fox said was very deserving of the equipment, iPads and books.

“As a preschool center, they probably lack the most resources out of our public preschools and our Head Starts,” Fox said. “When I select our preschool partners to receive benefits, I try to look toward the ones that have the biggest needs, and we are thrilled to be able to give back in this way.”

Before going into the school, 10 members of PNC and several United Way members gathered outside. The only member at the school who knew they were coming with the surprise gifts was school executive director Kelli Robertson.

With the entire entourage following Fox and with United Way public relations manager Carrolyn Salazar sporting a selfie stick to officially videotape the event, the group went in and surprised the staff and students with the gifts.

After Fox spoke about the joy of giving to the school, several members of PNC stayed inside and read books to the children while the rest of the crew went out and began to assemble playground equipment.

“We have a lot of children here who wouldn’t normally benefit from gifts like this,” Robertson said. “This means so much to us because it will benefit all of us greatly. We are so grateful to PNC and their support. Knowing that the community supports these children as their future is exciting. We didn’t have the funds for the iPads, and they are a great need for us, so this is something special.”

With the school maxed out at 90 children, the equipment and books will be put to good use for years to come.

Now in its fifth year of the Grow Up Great initiative, the program has given $500 million and benefited 40 markets across the nation. The program has made many wish lists come true for organizations that probably thought they might never find the funds to get what was needed.

For PNC the opportunity to invest in the future through Grow Up Great is a chance to give youngsters the means to succeed.

“The workplace of tomorrow will require skills and knowledge we can’t begin to imagine today,” said William Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer for PNC. “I join with my PNC colleagues in sharing the pride in all that has been accomplished through PNC Grow Up Great.”

United Way and PNC have partnered together for years, and it is relationships like this one that allow United Way to continue its outreach into the community.

“PNC is one of our great corporate partners,” United Way executive director Katie Koglman said. “They do amazing work through their Grow Up Great program, and when we were able to make this partnership with them and Learn N Play, our hearts swelled because we weren’t able to fund the iPads. When we shared the need with PNC, they immediately got on board. Then to learn that they could donate $3,000 of learning equipment was even more amazing. It is heartwarming to see so many people care so much for our community.”

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