Ryan Switzer loves a challenge. And he especially loves one that helps out others, in particular kids.
That's why when earlier this year, after Colin Dunlap from 93.7 The Fan made some snarky comments about the Steelers play calling on Twitter, specifically mentioning throwing the ball to Ryan Switzer, the receiver reacted. After some back and forth banter between Switzer and Dunlap it turned into doing something positive. Dunlap offered $20 per catch to a charity of Switzer's choice, and Switzer agreed and pledged $40 per catch to the oncology unit at UPMC Children's Hospital, where Dunlap's seven-year old daughter Darran is a patient.
On Thursday Switzer presented a check to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for $18,177 for cancer care, reflecting donations from Switzer and Dunlap, as well as others who got involved in the Ryan Switzer Reception Challenge, which includes some of his teammates as well as fans.
"What makes this so special is it's something that wasn't planned. It just kind of happened," said Switzer. "I think those are the most meaningful things in life. When you don't have a plan, you just go with the flow. I had no anticipation it would catch on like that.
"This has been something that is really special, something I will take with me for the rest of my life."
For Switzer, though, it's about more than giving money. It's about giving his time. After the check presentation Switzer spent time visiting the patients, something he did on a weekly basis during the season.
"It doesn't take any effort to give money," said Switzer. "That is just kind of a third person doing something. I thought making a personal connection, doing what I can to create some relationships with the people that are here. A lot of kids I have seen multiple times and connected with them. It's more personal and meaningful to show your action instead of just your words and money."
Switzer went room to room in the oncology department bringing smiles, not just there for attention, because all he wanted was one-on-one time with the kids. His eyes lit up talking to four-year old Tommie as both of them connected over her love for Frozen, as Switzer himself has a younger sister who loves the movie.
"That is why I keep coming back," said Switzer, who also delivered Build-A-Bear Steelers teddy bears to the kids. "The reaction I get, the conversations I have with the kids and their parents. I like to see the fight, especially the children. It's inspiring to know that they're more mentally and physically tough than I ever could be. It's inspiring to me. To know they are going through something that I can't imagine going through, it puts things into perspective in my life. It's a joy to get to know these kids and their families."
Switzer has already said he wants to do the challenge again next year, and make it bigger and better since it will start at the beginning of the season instead of closer to the end like it did this year.
"We would love that. I hope he starts right at the beginning of the season," said Rachel Petrucelli, President of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. "That would be fantastic and maybe even more people will join in and participate.
"It's wonderful because it helps the community, helps people across the nation understand our children here are getting great care, but they also need help and support from the donations we receive to make sure they get the best care available."