As the young, wide-eyed soon-to-be kindergartener walked up to the table, she glanced at the bright colored backpacks piled high above her head, and thought seriously about taking the pink one in front of her that would match her pink skirt.
She then looked shyly at Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward, eying up a lavender one he was getting ready to show her, and did an about face and took that one, walking away smiling from ear to ear.
A few weeks ago getting a brand new backpack and school supplies might not have been a reality for her, but on this night, she had her choice at the CASA backpack giveaway at the Schenley Park Skating Rink.
CASA, which is short for Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with children in the child welfare system who are neglected or abused. The advocates serve as a voice for the children in court and other situations to help ensure that every child has a safe, supportive and permanent home.
On this night many of the kids served by CASA were getting their school supplies, all donated by CentiMark Foundation, from Heyward and cornerback Cortez Allen.
The two players not only handed out the backpacks, but signed autographs, posed for pictures and even gave out hugs to the kids.
“It’s a lot of fun just to give back to the kids and be here,” said Heyward. “We are having fun with the kids. Anything you can do that brightens somebody’s day is special. You never know what somebody is going through and how you are going to impact their day. To give back to our community is a true pleasure.”
Being a part of the event was special for Allen, who didn’t always have new things like a backpack when it was time for him to go back to school as a kid.
“Growing up I didn’t always have things,” said Allen. “I didn’t always have a new backpack. Sometimes you had to recycle. Having the opportunity to be doing this is touching. To be able to give back to them, if it’s a little bit of happiness you give, it’s a pleasure.”
The fun didn’t stop with getting a backpack, as the kids were able to play miniature golf, have their caricature drawn, or enjoy the balloon art which ranged from butterfly wings to football helmets.
But the highlight definitely seemed to be meeting Heyward and Allen.
“We want our children to start off on the best foot possible,” said Melissa Protzek, executive director of CASA. “We feel the partnership between CentiMark, CASA and the Steelers is a way to give to the community and the kids and families we serve and tell them good luck for a big thing, the first day of school.
Tags: Cameron Heyward, CASA, Cortez Allen
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