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Steelers Blog

Keisel’s beard brings smiles to kids

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 29, 2013 – 4:06 am

As Brett Keisel walked into Kyla Ruffing’s room at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the shy eight-year old looked surprised, and then broke into a sweet smile as she looked at the big guy standing beside her hospital bed.

When asked who it was, she didn’t say Keisel, but instead gave a much simpler answer, “The Beard.”  

“It was amazing,” said her mother Danielle Nagel. “I was really blown away. I wasn’t expecting him to walk through the door. It was great to see him.”

Ruffling quietly talked with Keisel, showing him what she was building with Lego’s. Then she slowly started coming out of her shell, pulling out the reason she knows him as “The Beard,” her own oversized beard she put on to compare to Keisel’s. Keisel admired the look, the two smoothed out their beards, and he even signed a team photo for her that read, “You have the best beard I have ever seen.”

“It was awesome,” said Keisel, who also enjoyed seeing other patients on the floor play with their beards. “To see them play along with it, they had so much fun with it. Kyla was so filled with life and joy. When so much is happening that she could be filled with negativity, she was exuberant and joyous and lifted me up. Seeing them run around with their beards and turning around and making them into mullets, it was awesome.”

It’s Keisel’s beard that has incredible meaning for the kids at Children’s Hospital, particularly those on the oncology floor where he visited. In another week he will shave off the beard at his annual “Shear Da Beard” event, and all proceeds go to cancer programs at the hospital. 

“It’s great,” said Dr. Jake Cooper, the attending physician in hematology and oncology. “Our floor is full always. We do our best to keep the kids happy and distracted when they are going through some tough medications and serious diagnosis. Having a local hero like Mr. Keisel show up is a wonderful surprise for the kids to have.”

Keisel went room to room, giving the kids Steelers teddy bears, bracelets and signed team photos, but also giving them smiles, hugs and love. And they gave him something much more.

“Every time I go in there I can’t help but get filled with emotion,” said Keisel. “The things these families and kids have to go through with their treatment, it’s very tough. It does fill me with emotion, but it fills me with pride at the same time knowing I am helping in a small way.”

He is helping in a much greater way than he realizes. It’s not just the financial impact that shaving the beard has, it goes far deeper.

“It’s a symbol, it’s a yearly tradition and the people here know it’s for them,” said Cooper. “The people here view his huge mammoth beard as a sign of his affection for Children’s Hospital and his support for all of our patients. They love it. You see a lot of fake beards being worn by the kids for solidarity and team spirit.”

And they are beards that will lovingly be worn long after Keisel shaves his off.
Keisel and Kyla Ruffing.

Keisel and 15-year old Jeremy Coast.
Keisel and 11-year old Jetta Moore

Posted in Community, News, Player | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Keisel’s beard brings smiles to kids”

  1. By TaHee59 on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    What a great dude

  2. By Matt on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    One word…AWESOME.

  3. By Robert Dean on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    Bravo from the heart, Brett. A great football player, a great man, a great beard…and a great heart. God bless you, my brother.

  4. By Luis on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    I agree, this guy is awesome

  5. By terri on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    How do we get you to come to my grandaughters room when we are there. She was there on 6A and I asked if one of the Steelers could come and see her. She went thru 3 operations in a week and wanted a steeler to come and see her.????

  6. By Buddy Fisher on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    Mr. Keisel , Each football season I dread to see you and your teamates come to my Hometown stadium in Baltimore . I am not a Steelers fan but I have the greatest respect for you. What you do for these kids is even beyond inspiration. Thank you for being more than just about yourself. God bless you and yours . Good luck ( Except when you play the Ravens ) .

  7. By Ted on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    Much respect to “The Beard” takes a good man to try and help these kids and share his time bringing them smiles and hope. Nice to see its not all about football – you sir are a hero! “Shear Da Beard” then lets get this team back on track! Good luck to you and thank you on behalf of the kids and familes that your visits bring smiles in troubled times!

  8. By Sue on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    Wow, Brett Keisel!! As a lifetime Steeler fan, I know you are a one of our greatest players…. but now you are one of my favorite heroes. Kyla is my great-niece who is fighting this awful battle with leukemia, just like one of you Steelers….. using that “you won’t defeat me” attitude. May God bless you and keep you safe. Thanks for all you do, you truly are an angel in disguise.

  9. By Charlie & Lee Ann on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    Brett, We are deep in Ravens territory. Win or lose, efforts like your charity makes us even more proud to display our allegiance to the black and gold. It’s all about the kids! Can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through at such a young age and you are giving them a second chance at life. You are a man with a heart bigger than dabeard. God bless you my brother. This truly is deserving of a triple yoi! See yunz in 2013!

  10. By Gerhart Schnable III on Jan 30, 2013 | Reply

    Mr. Keisel as a husband of a young lady that is a two time cancer survivor (thyroid and breast), what you do for these little kids is just absolutely amazing. You are a god send.
    God Speed
    G.S. III

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