Paying It Forward: Steelers Who Are Making the World a Better Place
In yesterday’s 5 Smoldering Questions, Hombre de Acero added the following as a sort of bonus question:
Hopefully, all of you have non-football things to be thankful for, and those are far more important than anything that happens on the gridiron.
But who or what about the 2016 Steelers are you thankful for?
I didn’t answer that question because as it happens I’d already decided that was going to more or less be my post for today. Here goes:
I don’t want to imply in any way that the Rooneys are above mere pecuniary considerations, or that they don’t run the franchise as a business, because it is and they have to. But I do believe they run it, so far as possible, with a consideration of the human element that seems relatively rare in the league. I don’t believe that another ownership in 1970 would have kept Rocky Bleier for two years after he returned with a badly wounded foot from Vietnam. In fact, Chuck Noll planned to place him on waivers. It was The Chief who insisted the team doctors do additional surgery, at the team’s expense, when it would have been done at no cost by the government.
I have written a post about Bleier and other Steelers who have served in the military, and Roxanna Firehall featured Bleier in his Good Guys series. But our efforts paled in comparison to the article written by Tim Gleason, aka maryrose, for Behind the Steel Curtain back in 2009. It is not to be missed.
But to return to the subject at hand, this was more than 40 years ago. And while the style of the ownership may be different these days, fundamentally I think their worldview is intact. For one thing, I’m pretty sure that few other teams, perhaps none, in the NFL would have kept Sean Spence when he blew out his knee in a catastrophic way during his rookie preseason. I wrote a good deal more about this, including his acceptance of the Ed Block Courage Award three years later. It’s a great story, but the point is, the team kept him despite knowing it was entirely possible he would never walk properly again, much less play competitive football. Had the Steelers not kept him, it’s hard to imagine he would have been signed elsewhere. They took a big risk on a player who might never play.
And I’m very thankful that their attitudes clearly trickle down through the coaching staff and to the team. I have mentioned before the vast range and breadth of the charities the Steelers organization and/or players are involved with, and how it absolutely dwarfs such efforts from other teams, as far as I could determine. (Fans and/or players from other teams are welcome to set me right, if I’m wrong.) But for today I decided to focus on some player-driven initiatives. These are things the guys themselves do or are involved in, with little or no prompting from the team.
The list is probably not exhaustive (I do still have to cook Thanksgiving dinner!) but it’s a place to start. And while a guy starting a foundation (some of which may be little more than tax dodges) doesn’t make him a good person, their actual obligation in the matter is zero. They have to do a few team-mandated things, but I don’t believe the teams can mandate them to spend their own money. So as far as I’m concerned anything like this they do is pretty cool.
All information will be taken directly from the foundation websites, and you can visit the sites by clicking the links.
The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation seeks to support police and fire departments throughout the U.S. with a particular emphasis on support for K-9 units and service dogs.
The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation also works with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. For the past several years, Ben has devoted his time to the Make-A-Wish Foundation because of his passion to help children. One of the most memorable of these Make-A-Wish moments was when he met 14-year old Akeem Havens, who signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in May of 2008 to become one of Ben’s go-to wide receivers for the day!
In commenting on why establishing a charitable foundation is important to him, Ben said, “I have been blessed with opportunities throughout my life to pursue my goals and achieve some success, all under the guidance of a loving family and supportive communities. I was raised to appreciate my blessings and always try to help others who may not be as fortunate. I feel honored to be able to do so.”
The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation, founded by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, welcomes grant inquiries for foundation support. The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation will disperse grants to police and fire departments’ canine units throughout the US.
The Heyward House was started in 2015 by Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward. However, Cam’s story – and the foundation of The Heyward House – begins long before he was drafted to the Steelers.
As a child, Cameron had severe asthma. His condition required numerous hospitalizations, resulted in some scary close calls, and made it seem impossible that he would ever play any sport, let alone one as physically demanding as football. This experience taught him not to take anything for granted – the good or the bad. He learned that just because someone else doubts what your future can hold, you should never let that stop you. He is passionate about spreading that message to others.
Cam’s struggles with asthma would pale in comparison to the next life-changing event he would face as a teenager– the death of his father, Craig Heyward. His dad’s death dealt a devastating blow to everyone in his life, but most especially to his four sons. They lost a parent, a friend, and a role model. It also meant that Cameron would be raised by a single mom. He learned firsthand the struggles that parents and children face when there’s only one adult in the house or when a child’s homelife is challenging. He knows how important it is for people in those situations to feel the support of the community around them and is determined to offer that support in any way he can.
The passion that Cam shows on the field doesn’t stop when his uniform comes off. It is actually the other way around – Cameron carries the passion he feels about life onto the field with him.
At the core of Cam’s heart are kids – whether it’s visiting with children who have serious medical conditions, taking kids shopping for winter clothes, or sending birthday presents and cards to kids who rarely get celebrated. He knows that every kid needs to have one person who is in their corner, rooting for them at all times.
The DeAngelo Williams Foundation
The DeAngelo Williams Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and seek initiatives to support the eradication of breast cancer through preventative care and research. Since its founding in 2006, the foundation has raised an immeasurable amount of awareness and stirred up two-way conversations about breast cancer, both online and offline. As an example of the former, DeAngelo Williams, the foundation’s founder, posted the video of the NFL’s TV commercial he was featured in for breast cancer awareness month to his Facebook page, and the result was 1.3 million video views, 325k engagements, and 7.4 million impressions.
Also through philanthropy and community service, The DeAngelo Williams Foundation strives to become an advocate of education with a special focus on children’s literacy.
Mike and Maurkice Pouncey [have] a strong desire to promote the future success of disadvantaged youth by assisting programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for children at risk. Through their constant giving, they have provided more than $10 million of impact to at risk youth through its grants and programs since its inception to Florida, Miami, Lakeland. The Foundation supports numerous organizations and programs through its grant program, but also operates and funds several of its own programs for underprivileged children. The Foundation carefully selects programs that it can support financially and considers the grant program a partnership with these organizations, not just an exchange of money. The Foundation has become a consistent and viable part of these four communities in terms of underprivileged children.
The Foundation strives to make these opportunities available to children who might not otherwise have the chance to participate and looks strongly upon abused and neglected children, boys & girls clubs, after-school programs, summer camps and foster children.The Foundation has established several programs that are operated and funded solely by the Foundation.
Here are some player foundations I couldn’t really get enough info on to judge their impact or activities, or just things harder to categorize:
CUEUPU Foundation —Antonio Brown
James Harrison Family Foundation (Deebo)
Warren’s Warriors: Field Goals for Kids (Greg Warren) Not his own foundation but a matching donation to brain tumor research
DVIG Foundation—Shamarko Thomas
DIVG FOUNDATION had a great thanksgiving give away yesterday. Blessings 🙏 pic.twitter.com/iqmWbz4sXA
— shamarko thomas (@shamarko21ya) November 23, 2016
Arthur Moats doesn’t have a foundation, but he and his wife tithe his income, in addition to their church tithe, to causes they care about. They also go as a family to the Ronald McDonald house at Children’s Hospital on a regular basis to bake cookies with the kids and their families.
William Gay is very involved in causes surrounding domestic violence, although I can’t find a foundation per se.
I’m thankful for the desire to give back these guys all express, and that they look beyond themselves. We all have someone we can help or something we can give, no matter how modest our means. I hope we can all be truly thankful for our blessings today and every day.