Pittsburgh’s most iconic — and speediest — deliveryman, Mr. McFeely, helped kick off the 14th annual Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive Thursday.
McFeely, played by David Newell, brought his puppet friends, Don Quixote, King Friday and Daniel Striped Tiger, to teach the 72 students from Crescent Early Childhood Centers and the Children’s Museum Pre-K Headstart Programs the value of sharing by donating sweaters.
Bill Schlageter, director of marketing at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, said the sweater drive can be seen as metaphor for what it means to be a part of a neighborhood.
“It’s something that we are very proud and happy and always energized to do each year because we think it’s so important for kids and adults and families to share sweaters at this time of year,” Schlageter said.
He said the museum is collecting new and gently used sweaters that will be distributed to families in need throughout southwestern Pennsylvania by the Salvation Army, Operation Safety Net, Family Links, and Presbyterian Media Mission.
“We collect, we count we separate women’s and men’s and children’s sweaters, bag them as such so that we can provide sweaters as organizations can best use them,” Schlageter said.
The Children’s Museum has collected more than 28,000 sweaters since the drive began in 2000.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was the longest-running children’s program that aired nationally with 33 seasons and almost 1,000 episodes.
Fred Rogers, who died 10 years ago, hung up his sweater for the last time in 2001, but Schlageter said the sweater drive and the children’s reaction to Mr. McFeely shows that his message still resonates with children.
“I think why kids are connecting with those characters is because they still espouse that notion of growing up with a health mindset about yourself, your family, your community, all of those values that I think everyone needs to grow and blossom,”
People can drop off their sweaters at the Children’s Museum now through Dec. 13.