When Cam Heyward was planning his annual fundraiser for The Heyward House, he wanted to do something fun, something unique that would appeal not just to his teammates who come out to support it, but to everyone attending.
And he came up with the perfect idea.
On Monday night he hosted The Heyward House Homecoming at the Carnegie Science Center, an event where school pride and black and gold love were fully on display everywhere you looked.
"We did it like a college homecoming. A more laid back style where guys can wear jeans, rep their school," said Heyward. "We had games like corn hole and things for people to have fun and relax. That helped to be some early conversation starters where guys get to rep their school. It's a great event where we can raise a lot of money."
Part of the Carnegie Science Center was transformed to look like a high school or college homecoming and the best part was everyone got into the spirit of it. There was as a high school marching band, balloons, and upscale tailgate food, everything to give you that homecoming feel.
"We wanted it to be more personable," said Heyward. "I grew up going to the Carnegie Science Center. To have my event there was huge. It was a great time."
It also served as the main fundraiser for The Heyward House Foundation, an organization he started in 2015 that allows him to reach out to others in need, those who could use a helping hand.
"Last year we were able to fully fund Blessings in a Backpack throughout the entire Urban Pathways school program," said Heyward. "We are looking to do more things. We are able to do the birthday club. We are blessed to have so many people participate.
"I know I couldn't do it without the help of sponsors, Club 97 members and my teammates. The fact that they understand it's serious for me and they take time out of their busy schedules to come, it means a lot to me."
He has given back above and beyond through the foundation. He has the Cameron Heyward Birthday Bash, where he hosts an annual party for kids who are often forgotten on their birthdays where they have an afternoon filled with fun and games.
He has teamed up with Blessings in a Backpack, providing backpacks filled with healthy food each weekend of the school year to those at Urban Pathways Charter School.
He is a force behind a t-shirt campaign to promote cancer awareness, and the 'Pittsburgh is Stronger than Cancer,' shirts raise funds to help with research and aid families dealing with hardships treatment can create. His father, Craig Heyward, died of brain cancer when he was a high school senior, and it's something that touches him deeply. His foundation benefits many causes, including Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, Smyrna Stars Basketball Club and after school fitness programs.
He also launched 'Craig's Closet,' a program he is doing in conjunction with his foundation and Sports Clips to help provide suits, shirts, ties and the necessities to young men in the Pittsburgh area who don't have the means to attain proper attire for key occasions. Heyward said doing a project like this was something his late father had talked about, but he never was able to make it come to fruition. To be able to live out a dream his dad had, it's something that means the world to Heyward. Heyward is hoping to help as many young men in the Pittsburgh area as he can, and it doesn't all have to be about a job interview. If a suit is what they need for something special, he wants to help.
Heyward has led an initiative with local police officers, working together to make an impact in and around Pittsburgh, including a Thanksgiving turkey distribution through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank with his teammates and police officers working together to distribute to local families.
He is working with the UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and UPMC Asthma Institute, something he battles himself, and wants to help children with severe asthma. Last year at Christmas he gave all of the patients at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh his jersey to help brighten their day and has plans to do more with them moving forward.
"I am way more proud of the person, the man, the husband, the father, the son, the brother, the friend that Cameron is than the football player," said his mother, Charlotte Heyward, who is the executive director of The Heyward House. "And he is a heck of a football player."