Meet Michael Pivarnik: Born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, he is a graduate of Slippery Rock University and currently works as a loan operations representative. Before 2013, Michael had never coordinated a fundraiser.
But in August of 2013, Michael’s life changed dramatically when his younger sister, Marla, passed unexpectedly. A 22-year-old recent graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marla was on her way to graduate school and known by friends and family for being fearless and creative, with a passion for learning. But above all else, it was Marla’s vigorous support for environmental causes and nature that continues to make a lasting impact.
Michael knew that he wanted to do something to honor his sister’s memory, and his goal was clear: to raise money to benefit the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) in memory of Marla.
“Marla drew me toward the Conservancy. It was something she was interested in,” said Michael. “She felt strongly about protecting land. I knew I wanted to raise money to help the environment. It was important to me to know that the funds were going to a reputable charity, and I researched the most trusted charities in the area.”
An avid long-distance runner, Michael decided to tie the fundraiser to an upcoming marathon in Canton, Ohio. At the end of the fundraiser, he would run the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon.
Michael dove head first into his fundraising efforts for Marla to benefit WPC, starting a campaign on the crowdfunding website CrowdRise. His message was clear: “You have been given a great opportunity to preserve my sister’s name, as well as your environment.”
Using social media to promote the campaign, Michael also posted flyers and sent formal letters to businesses. He eventually garnered donations from offices at Primary Health Network, BNY Mellon in Pittsburgh and his own workplace.
By the end of the 90 day campaign, he raised $7,316 from more than 150 people.
“In the first five days, we had 21 donations totaling $1,055,” recalls Michael. “It was unbelievable to see the amount of love and support from Marla’s family, friends, neighbors and the community displayed by showing how much they cared about her and this cause.”
Michael gave the money raised to WPC’s gardens and greenspace program. The money funded the community flower garden at Route 62 and East State Street in Hermitage, Pa. in 2014. This Mercer County garden received flowers, mulch and other materials thanks to Michael’s fundraiser. And, Marla’s name will continue to be recognized on the garden sign through 2016.
Today, he continues to find connections to Marla in nature, especially while he runs.
“I run with something of hers - ranging from a charm, piece of jewelry, bandana or music on her iPod. I ran in Jackson, Mississippi this past January with a harmonica that I found in her bedside drawer,” said Michael.
“I have Marla in mind every step of the way.”
If you would like to make a donation in memory of Marla, or in honor of a friend or loved one to support the ongoing conservation of our region, visit WaterLandLife.org or give us a call at 412-586-2340.