It was a perfect day on Pittsburgh's North Shore for the Steelers Run and Walk and Kids Fun Run, which brought out runners, walkers and Steelers fans to join forces to help a good cause.
The event, which also had a virtual aspect to it again this year, was chaired by Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris. Harris is participating in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, voted the greatest play in Steelers and NFL history. The play took place in the AFC playoffs against the Raiders on Dec. 23, 1972, at Three Rivers Stadium, propelling the Steelers to their first-ever playoff win. The team will celebrate the anniversary during the 2022 season when they host the Raiders on Christmas Eve.
"It is very exciting to celebrate the 50th anniversary," said Harris. "It brings back great memories and a special time in Steelers history. Here it is 50 years later, and we are celebrating and connecting it today and talking about it today. It's unbelievable. Who would have thought? It feels so good to have 50 years of history connecting. I look at it as we are celebrating all 50 years, not just one play or one year. We are celebrating 50 years."
While the Run and Walk is about the joy and benefits of fitness, it also supports two incredible causes, the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund, which was established in the memory of the team's late founder, as well as the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research.
The Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research was launched by the Steelers in 2016 to support continued research and education regarding brain injuries and treatment of sports-related concussions in honor of Noll, the late Hall of Fame coach. The Foundation funds research that it believes is the most promising in the area of sports-related concussions and related conditions. To help best evaluate which research programs to fund, some of the most renowned neurosurgeons in the country serve on a national medical advisory panel.
The Art Rooney Scholarship Fund annually provides a grant to a North Catholic High School student and funds the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships for two students graduating from Pittsburgh high schools who are residents of the North Side.
"When I look at this it just fits what we are all about in Steelers Nation," said Harris. "We like to honor and appreciate the people who had a great impact on building the foundation of what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, like Chuck Noll and Art Rooney Sr. It's all tied it to giving back and making the community better."
This year's scholarship winners are Riley Belle Orr from North Catholic High School, who will attend Notre Dame and major in Aerospace Engineering, and Rooney Scholars of the Pittsburgh Promise, Jayden Richards from Perry High School, who will attend Robert Morris University and major in Sports Broadcasting and Alliah Wright also from Perry High School, who will attend Indiana University of Pa. and major in Nursing.
Take a look at photos of the Annual Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids' Kickoff Run. The proceeds benefit the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund and the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research
For all of them, the scholarship gives them an opportunity
"It means a lot that I was chosen out of multiple students at my school to receive this scholarship," said Wright. "It will help me achieve my goals and inspire me to work harder than I have to.
"My long-term goal is to graduate from IUP and become a nurse practitioner and work at one of the UPMC hospitals. I always wanted to help other people, so this is helping me achieve that goal even more."
Belle also has long-term goals, and the scholarship is a first step in attaining them.
"It allows me to be able to pursue graduate studies," said Belle. "My goal at Notre Dame is to be in the five-year program, which consists of earning a bachelors in engineering and a Masters in business. The business aspect is very important to me since I plan on opening at least one or two businesses throughout my lifetime. Basically, the scholarship will open the door for me to pursue that entrepreneurship sooner rather than later."
While both know and appreciate the tradition of Steelers' football, they admittedly aren't football fans, but are more than grateful for what the organization has done for them.
"I have never been a huge football fan, even though I come from a place with a very decorated football history," said Belle. "Also, the first thing people ask about Notre Dame is football related. Although I was never big on it, I think receiving the scholarship has made me feel far more connected with and appreciative of my roots in Pittsburgh, almost like I will have a piece of Pittsburgh helping me through college. The Steelers can expect me to tune in more often from here on out though."
Wright said when she thinks of football related scholarships, her first thought is it goes to male students who play the game. Her ability to win this one, though, makes it really special.
"It's pretty cool," said Wright. "You think that a scholarship from a football team would only go to a male. I am not really a football fan, I understand it a little bit and like the Steelers, but football isn't really my thing. But I am really grateful to the Steelers for doing this scholarship. It's really special."