Two alumni co-create new non-profit to help disadvantaged youth


Photo submitted by Cole Barefoot)

Written By Kylie Thomas, Co-Features/A&E Editor

Two Point Park alumni and current graduate students recently started a non-profit called the Dream Start Foundation, which is looking to support disadvantaged youth and neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.

Spencer Marnich and Cole Barefoot are both co-founders of the foundation that is made up of young adults all in their early 20s. Marnich went to Point Park for an early childhood education undergraduate degree and is currently working on his masters in education administration. Barefoot was a business management major at Point Park now working on his masters for public relations and advertising.

Marnich got his major start with volunteer event organization back in August of 2020, which he viewed as just a nice gesture. Little did he know it would amplify the Dream Start Foundation and start a future for the non-profit.

“In 2020, I was sitting back during COVID and was thinking about how it set everyone back, especially since I was working in education, I saw a lot of kids were struggling,” Marnich said. “So I organized an event to give out 100 backpacks filled with school supplies and gave them in the East Liberty area, which got really great feedback.”

This event was the kickstart to helping out those in need in the Pittsburgh area, but it wasn’t until recently that the foundation really took off. Once Marnich brought in Barefoot to help, they hosted their second event of the same nature but with greater donations.

“In about July of 2021, I got texts and emails asking when we were doing the next backpack giveaway so I made a call, and we got 500 backpacks full of school supplies,” Marnich said. “So I kept making calls. I called my barber in East Liberty at Status Grooming Excellence and they said they would cut everyone’s hair for free, a restaurant donated hot meals for every kid, and even Benny Snell from the Steelers helped out and gave out signed shirts and game-worn merch for all the kids.”

After the second backpack event is when the two started to look further into building up the non-profit from the need they saw in Pittsburgh. Not only did the event push them, but it also spread word of what the Dream Start Foundation was doing which led to a call from newly elected Mayor Ed Gainey to have the Dream Start Foundation team help give out turkeys and Thanksgiving meals at Gainey’s 6th annual turkey drive.

“When Ed Gainey came up to us, he just loved what we were doing and that was really the inspiration for us to move forward and file for our 501c status so that we can collect donations,” said Barefoot. “So hopefully by the end of January we’ll be official. Building the partnership with Ed Gainey was truly a huge inspiration to make all of this real, it’s so nice to have him working with us.”

Marnich and Barefoot already have big plans for the future of the organization which include putting on more events to reach out to the entire Pittsburgh area and most importantly to spread kindness in the world.

“Ideally, we’d like to continue to do a backpack drive each year and increase the number of backpacks and locations,” Barefoot said. “Through building partnerships our goal is to set up some sort of giveaway for the disadvantaged communities of Pittsburgh every month whether that’s through the food bank, Ed Gainey, Benny Snell, or whoever else we can partner with.”

This is just the beginning for the Dream Start Foundation. With the help of numerous partners, the group is ready to move forward and continue to learn how to make the foundation as successful as possible.

“We’ve only been actually operating for a little over four months now and we’ve helped 2,000 people already and we’d like to do a winter care package to end out the year,” Marnich said. “So it’s been a whirlwind. The knowledge and help we’ve received so far has been so awesome that it has us confident moving forward.”