It was a magical night as Acrisure Stadium was transformed into a place filled with love and compassion when the Steelers hosted their annual Huddle for the Holidays, teaming up with Convoy of Hope for the incredible event.
The event, now in its fourth year and back to in-person after two years, is a unique one-of-a-kind outreach that provides necessities and the simple pleasures in life for kids and families from local organizations, including Gwen's Girls, Community Empowerment Association, Latino Community Center, Best of the Batch, Clairton Youth Development, La Rosa Pittsburgh, Amachi, Salvation Army, Jeremiah's Place and Center of Life.
"It's giving back during the holiday season," said Blayre Holmes-Davis, the Steelers Director of Community Relations. "It's a time when everyone is so excited, but it can also be a really difficult time for people too. We want to make sure we don't forget that.
"We have been blessed with so much as a team. Our players have been blessed with so much. We need to make sure we are prioritizing and making sure the community members that don't have, have during the holiday season. We are so joyful. Everyone should be joyful and giving during this time. Kids and families shouldn't be worried about putting food on the table, not knowing if they can buy gifts for their kids. Even just the dignity of a nice haircut. We are here so you can feel like it's a night you can spend with the Steelers and not worry about those things."
Current and former Steelers players were on hand en masse lending a hand at all the different stations and spreading love and bringing smiles.
"I just think helping the community is huge," said defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. "It's around Christmas time. Being able to provide presents, books, haircuts for anybody who needs it. They even have something for letters for Santa. This goes a long way to boost the morale, take a little off parent's shoulders and give back to the community.
"These are genuine smiles we are seeing. It means the world to so many families and the kids and stuff."
The evening provided a wide mix for everyone, from the essentials like health care resources provided by UPMC and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, haircuts by JPS Barbershop and manicures by Bella Capelli, to needs like winter coats sponsored by RSM US LLP, as well as shoes and socks, to the fun activities like arts & crafts, a photo booth and toy and book giveaways.
"It's absolutely critical for us to be involved," said Andy Bosman, Chief Marketing Officer for RSM. "One of our core values is stewardship. To us stewardship is every day giving back to the communities where we live and work and providing hope for those that it makes a world of difference for. To have the opportunity to partner with the Steelers and Convoy of Hope and give back this time of year I can think of no better way to spend my evening."
After going through all of the exciting stations, all of the families, which included a total of 500 people, were provided with groceries to help them through what can often be tough times.
The Steelers partnered with Convoy of Hope to give back to multiple community organizations in the Pittsburgh area
"It is a phenomenal opportunity," said Dr. Kathi Elliott, CEO of Gwen's Girls. "A true blessing. Many of our families need a lot of the resources that are offered. We do our best to try to connect them with any resource that they need. For the Steelers to open their doors and provide that in a one-stop-shop type of scenario is truly amazing.
"We know we have to come together when we are looking at what the needs are for our youth and family. It's very much appreciated.
"Pittsburgh is amazing. There are a lot of different initiatives and things that are happening, and this is one that is something I know our families and youth enjoy. They get to see other programs in the community. A few weeks ago, we did a social justice movie screening with Alex Highsmith, and there were two other organizations there. For our youth to be in a space with them, talk to them, and they know each other from being from the same neighborhood. To be able to engage in a positive way, in a positive atmosphere, and engage with one another is good. Unfortunately, there aren't many opportunities in the community for them to play together. This is a great opportunity for them to get together in a safe atmosphere and have fun."
Former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch was thrilled to have individuals served by his Best of the Batch Foundation invited to be a part of the night, knowing what it means to them to have a little extra help this time of year, especially with it coming from the team.
"You never know what people are going through, especially at the holidays," said Batch. "For us to be able to have people participate in it means a lot to them. It gets everyone in the holiday spirit. You never know what kind of year people have had.
"It's so important to have the Steelers players involved too. I was one of these kids once. They see the players on TV, on social media, and now they have a chance to interact with them one-on-one. You never know where that conversation can go. It might shine a light for somebody who is trying to figure out what life is navigating for them. It's important. It just puts a smile on their face."
And smiles never went away all evening. The families were beside themselves with joy and the Christmas spirit was alive as everyone enjoyed the magic of the season.
"Anything regarding the Steelers, people in Pittsburgh, many of us living in Pittsburgh our whole lives and kids being involved in sports, and the Steelers being an integral part of most of our Sundays in the season and celebrations, it's special," said Elliott. "It's always good to have a time away from things happening in the community, to relax and have fun. For many of them it might be the first time coming to a stadium and being able to engage in activities that are being offered."