Players open their hearts at the holidays

December 11, 2012 by Teresa Varley

It was another busy day in the community for the Steelers, with players out and about giving back and delivering key messages.

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Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester hosted his first “Shop with Sly” event, taking 15 kids from the North Hill Community Outreach Program on a shopping spree.

“I have always wanted to be able to give back and now I feel like I am in the position to,” said Sylvester. “This holiday season was the perfect time to do something like this.”

Sylvester, along with teammates Chris Carter, Dmon Comartie-Smith and Doug Legursky, paired with the kids and took them shopping for fun gifts for themselves, things they might not otherwise be able to have.

“Christmas is about getting what you want, not always what you need, and to have fun,” said Sylvester. “I wanted to do something to bring joy to these kids this holiday season. Most of the time the things they need aren’t the most fun stuff. When you get what you want, toys or games, things you are looking forward to, it makes them happy. Bringing them that joy is special.”

Each child was given a $100 gift certificate, with much of it used in the toy department, but also on Steelers apparel and even some comfy boots that one young girl had on before she even left the store.

“It’s so much fun to come out here and put smiles on their faces and get them some of the toys they want this holiday season,” said Legursky. “You become a kid yourself, running around grabbing some cool stuff. I probably had as much fun as them looking at the toys. Hopefully they will have a good time with them.”

It wasn’t just the gifts that were meaningful, but it was the time spent with the players as the wide-eyed kids loved nothing more than hanging out with them.

“It’s special for me spending time with the kids, smiling and brightening their day,” said Sylvester. “Us shopping with them and letting them pick out what they want makes me feel good.”

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Safety Ryan Mundy and cornerback Cortez Allen brought plenty of smiles to kid’s faces at the annual Allegheny County Department of Human Services Christmas football giveaway.

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“It’s important to give back because we are blessed and fortunate,” said Mundy. “To be able to share our blessings with those that are less fortunate brings joy to our whole team. A lot of guys are doing things in the community right now, helping out those that need it. It’s all about helping somebody else out.”

The players gave the footballs to kids served by Children Youth Services, signing them and posing for pictures.

“Spending time with the kids is just as important as them getting gifts,” said Mundy. “They love being around the Steelers, hanging out and getting autographs. That is just as important as getting a gift.

“Giving and helping others out never gets old. That is one thing I take a lot of pride in. You get that good feeling inside and you are thankful.”
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Center Maurkice Pouncey and linebacker LaMarr Woodley visited Sto-Rox Middle School to take part in a “Tackle Bullying” assembly, addressing the issue that many students have to cope with on a daily basis.

“When I was in school there was someone who acted like a bully, people didn’t want to be his friend because playing games would lead to fights,” said Woodley. “Bullying messes up relationships you could have with good people. Nothing good comes of it.”

The two players were joined by McKees Rocks Police Chief Robert Cifrulak, who helped encourage the students to find constructive ways of dealing with aggression, ways that are not harmful to themselves or others as a part of Sto-Rox School District’s anti-violence campaign.   

“I don’t think it’s right at all for anyone to pick on kids,” said Pouncey. “I want to set them on the right path, teach them to be friendly with each other and not pick on someone because they are smaller, or not as fortunate as them, or whatever reason they think they have.”

In recent years stories have emerged of kids who are afraid to go to school or participate in activities because of bullying, and the mission is to help put an end to that kind of fear and intimidation.

“Kids shouldn’t have to come to school and feel a certain way, feel that they are going to get punished by other kids,” said Pouncey. “For us to be able to speak to them about not doing that to kids is important.”

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In another assembly, quarterback Charlie Batch teamed with Harlem Globetrotters star Cheese Chisholm to deliver a similar message at Steel Valley Middle School. The Globetrotters recently launched “The ABCs of Bullying Prevention,” which stresses Action, Bravery and Compassion.

“It’s important to educate the kids about the issues they may be having and not knowing how to resolve them,” said Batch. “I make sure I let them know there are tools to help, whether it’s communicating with parents, teachers, principals, whatever the problem is there are alternative ways to correct them and they have the resources they need.”

Batch was also honored at the assembly as an “Ambassador of Goodwill” for his work with the Best of the Batch Foundation, and provided with 100 tickets to use for underprivileged kids for the Globetrotters Dec. 26 performance at the Consol Energy Center. Chisholm also taught Batch how to spin a ball on his finger and presented him with a jersey, but the key message was finding a way to stop bullying and protect those being bullied.

“A lot of those kids don’t know how to deal with the options,” said Batch. “They go from, if I tell maybe the problem continues if the person gets in trouble. We have to help them identify the problem, which is bullying and the options that are needed to correct it.”

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