Students wearing Pitt attire and Santa hats with Pitt logo
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Christmas Day at Pitt returns

  • Community Impact
  • Our City/Our Campus
  • Athletics

Christmas Day at Pitt is back on the calendar.

Cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the much-beloved holiday service event is returning in full force, led by the new Office of Engagement and Community Affairs.

“We’re very excited to be able to host Christmas Day at Pitt once again this year,” said Lina Dostilio, vice chancellor of engagement and community affairs. “It’s a special, long-standing tradition where so many members of the University come together to share holiday joy with our neighbors.”

This year on Dec. 25, around 200 volunteers will help distribute winter gear, meals and presents for neighbors from across the city and region who may not have other opportunities to celebrate this season. Although the event is back to its pre-pandemic scale, it’ll also feature additional safety measures, including encouraging that community members opt for take-out meals.

Regardless of the details, the day is a special occasion both for those in the University who participate and for members of the community.

“Every year, members anticipate Christmas Day at Pitt, which has been and continues to be a tremendous blessing for everybody,” said Lezetta Cox, executive director of community nonprofit Peoples Oakland, a partner organization

To go smoothly, Christmas Day at Pitt requires dedicated people from all corners of the University.

Dostilio specifically cited the hard work and leadership of Jamie Ducar and Alex Toner, director and assistant director of community engagement, respectively. “Christmas Day at Pitt wouldn’t be possible without those two,” she said.

Pitt’s Business and Auxiliary Services also played a critical role alongside foodservice provider Compass Group to distribute meals this year, and volunteers across the Pitt community donated gifts. The Department of Parking, Transportation and Services will ensure that presents get where they need to go.  

As in years past, the result will be thousands of families served meals and provided with winter essentials — and every child walking away from the event with a gift.

Some new traditions brought about by the pandemic, however, are here to stay. Last year, Athletics Director of Media Operations and Community Engagement Celeste Welsh organized get-togethers for Pitt student-athletes to wrap presents as a team at the Petersen Events Center. “A lot of them can’t go home for the holidays, and teams were in individual bubbles anyway,” she said. “It brings our teams together and gets them in the holiday spirit.”

She’s continuing the tradition this year, with six teams signed up so far.

“It gives the athletes a break while giving back to the community,” she said. “I think it kind of warms their heart.”

Pitt Athletics has a long history of involvement in Christmas Day at Pitt, including organizing gift drives at men’s and women’s basketball games. Together with those donated by athletics staff, this year’s gift count is at more than 300 — and rising.

“It’s an engagement that our student-athletes, our staff and our coaches love to take part in, and it’s for a great cause,” said Pitt Athletics Life Skills Community Coordinator Chase McIntyre.

McIntyre works with athletes on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he said that two students especially went above and beyond to contribute to this year’s event.

Therese Pitman on the lacrosse team and Olivia Miller on the gymnastics team did a lot of legwork organizing this,” he said. “They’re the ones who did fundraising and went out and did the shopping. They’ve really put in a lot of effort on top of their already ridiculously busy schedule.”

All this effort from Pitt students, faculty and staff to put the event together doesn’t go unappreciated.

“During the holidays, especially around Christmas, our members have a difficult time,” Cox said. “Because our agency is closed on Christmas Day, the University and staff taking time away from their own families to provide a meal, a gift and an opportunity for our members and others to be a part of the community on Christmas Day makes a significant impact to our members. This act of kindness brings more joy to our members than words can express.”


— Patrick Monahan, photo by Korey Blucas