“This isn’t just about what I do,” said Polamalu. “There are a lot of other players on this team proactive in helping the community. There are a lot of people doing a lot of good things. A lot of people come from a background of struggle and we appreciate things and realize how much better our lives could have been if we got a little extra bump, a little extra help and that is the opportunity a lot of us guys are trying to give.”
On this night, though, it was about Polamalu and what he is doing in the community as he hosted Polamalu’s Polynesian Luau at the Westin Convention Center.
An unusually warm Pittsburgh evening set the stage for the island paradise inside where Steelers’ players and coaches, as well as guests in attendance, enjoyed a traditional island feast and Polynesian entertainment and dancing.
“I wanted people to be able to come in so we can be friends and form a relationship at an event like this,” said Polamalu. “I wanted to bridge the gap between fan and family. Our culture is all about that. We welcome people. We love everybody.”
While enjoying what the culture offers was the theme of the evening, giving back was the reason for the event.
The event benefited two causes that are near and dear to Polamalu’s heart, The Troy Polamalu Football Camp in his ancestral homeland of American Samoa and The Harry Panos Fund that honors family members who have valiantly served in the military.
Polamalu first hosted the football camp in American Samoa in 2011, bringing inspiration and raising the spirits of the young male population in a poverty stricken region.
“It amazes me in this day and how the world is working that a culture that has given so much to the game of football, and has received so much from the game of football, can be so affected by so very little work and money,” said Polamalu. “Our education system is really bad. The political system needs a lot of work. Football has such a tremendous impact on our culture, it’s awesome. It’s our foot in the door.”
The camp drew 660 participants from seven high schools to further advance their football knowledge and skill level, hoping to use it as a springboard for a future on the collegiate level where they can gain a valuable education and possibly turn the sport into a career one day.
For Polamalu, the camp was a start of something special. Now, he wants to do more.
“We want to help them with education, computer labs or a library and putting a football field down,” said Polamalu. “The opportunity to affect the infrastructure of a country is really amazing.
“I want to be able to have a lasting presence there and be able to continue to have an impact. That is why we are doing it every other year so it can spread over time. The message was conveyed to them that it won’t be me all of the time. It has to be the children who eventually take over, other players that step in and take over. We all support each other. I have been the driving force behind that, getting everybody on page.”
Another thing Polamalu and his wife Theodora have been a driving force behind is helping the military. The Harry Panos Fund is named after Theodora’s grandfather who fought in World War II. His stories inspired them to give back to those who have served, and those who continue to serve our country.
Polamalu has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, taken part in Heroes at Heinz Field, an event that honors veterans who were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, and has provided the opportunity for veterans and current military to attend Steelers games. Now, he wants to do more, as part of the proceeds from the event will focus on building a recreation room at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Hospital among other veterans needs.
“We want to be able to continue to bring them to football games, help put food on their table, a roof over their head,” said Polamalu. “We have been able to offer a lot of really cool opportunities and help people out.”
Polamalu is thrilled that he was able to bring together an event that helps the charities that mean so much to his family in a manner where everyone works together, something he stressed to those in Samoa.
“There are a lot of Samoan charities that are doing different things and are competing against each other,” said Polamalu. “Our message was let’s do something together. Let’s not compete. You don’t compete for charity. You don’t compete to help people. If you want to do something better, do it together.”
Tags: Troy Polamalu
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