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Flexing their muscles for a reason

Posted Mar 17, 2016

Alejandro Villanueva and Sammie Coates brought smiles to kids at the MDA Muscle team event.

The atmosphere at David L. Lawrence Convention Center was fun and playful at the 2016 Muscle Team fundraiser, an event that benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Current and former Steelers’ players, as well as other area athletes and Pittsburgh firefighters, were teamed with MDA Goodwill Ambassadors for an evening of fun and plenty of games for a great cause.

“This is a very unique thing to get to do,” said receiver Sammie Coates. “You get a chance to give back to the kids. It makes you smile when you see the kids and I get a kick out of it. It’s a great time. It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life. I want to come support them any way that I can.”

The MDA Goodwill Ambassadors are children living with the neuromuscular disease and the Muscle Team event is an opportunity to show the strength that they have, and allow them to enjoy some fun times with athletes who are there to give them even more strength.

“I think it’s special to interact with the kids, see their smiles,” said tackle Alejandro Villanueva. “It’s a really good time, especially with their families because they are going through struggles. For a small part of their day they get to play with us. If I can make a kid smile, it’s a really good day.”

There was definitely no shortage of smiles as the games were played, and the competition got serious on a game of bubble hockey. But there was another purpose for the night. A live and silent auction, which included artwork done by the ambassadors, was held to help raise funds to support the fight against muscular dystrophy and to help fund an annual camp for the kids, which all of the MDA Ambassadors attend.

“It’s a great way for the community to raise money and help people living in Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania with muscle disease,” said Justin Slavicek, director of business development for MDA in Pittsburgh. “With the athletes support and the local teams support, it’s a great event. The kids love being with the athletes. The kids and athletes have a great relationship, great bond. Seeing the kids light up with joy and have a good time with the athletes is fantastic. It’s a sight that you can’t even fathom.”

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