Art Rooney Sr. had a passion for helping others, for giving back to those who needed a hand, in particular those he held close to his heart.
So when he saw the Catholic Youth Association struggling financially back in the 1970s, he knew he needed to step in. It was one of his favorite charities, and their struggles put them at risk to be able to continue to help those in need.
The annual Art Rooney Awards Dinner was held on Monday night to benefit the Catholic Youth Association.
It was his drive to make it work that brought about the Art Rooney Award Dinner & Auction, an annual event that benefits the Catholic Youth Association (CYA). It's an event that has embodied what Art Rooney Sr., lovingly known as "The Chief," believed in and one his grandson, Steelers President Art Rooney II is humbled to carry on.
"To be able to continue something he started is very rewarding," said Rooney. "It's a time for me to reflect on him and what he has meant to our community, the organization and me personally. It's always a special night."
The dinner was held on Monday at the Westin Convention Center, bringing together Pittsburgh's leaders in business, education and sports to combine efforts and strength to help the CYA serve the most vulnerable in the community…children and the elderly. The dinner honors "Pittsburgh's Champions," those that have made a difference in the community and have a passion for Pittsburgh.
Among the honored were Rob Citrone, a member of the Steelers ownership group and founder of Discovery Capital Management, who received the Art Rooney Award, presented to an individual who is a 'Pittsburgher' and is devoted to the community and Pittsburgh the way Art Rooney Sr. was.
"Rob's commitment to our community, and other communities around the country, has been outstanding," said Rooney. "He and his wife Cindy support so many different causes it's hard to keep up with them. They are always involved in different activities. Since they have gotten involved with our ownership group it's been great to get to know them and the work they do for so many great causes. They do so much for breast cancer and so many other causes it's hard to even name.
"They are authentic members of Steelers Nation. It's been fun to have them involved with us on a more direct basis."
The Cirtones live in Connecticut full-time, but are originally from the Pittsburgh area, and their passion for the Steelers dates back to the 1970s, making winning the award a real honor.
"I am almost speechless," said Citrone. "There are so many deserving people. It's amazing. I don't know what to say. I almost have tears in my eyes. I have always looked up to Mr. Rooney as an icon of Pittsburgh and the sports world. He was someone my parents and entire family had tremendous respect for. He was such a humble, genuine and amazing man. I remember being a part of Franco's (Harris) Italian Army and going to the games with my parents in an Italian Army helmet. I still remember the day when he didn't see the Immaculate Reception because he was going down to talk to the team about putting forth a great effort.
"I feel like I won this is because of the work of my family, what Cindy does, my parents, my kids, her parents. It's all of us that have done it together. It's not my award, it's the family award."
The Citrones have been generous sponsors of countless events in the Pittsburgh area and nationwide, but give a lot more…they give their heart, blood, sweat and tears.
"We grew up in blue collar families," said Citrone. "We are so blessed. We feel that is our responsibility. We have a tremendous love for Pittsburgh and the people of Pittsburgh and we have never lost that living outside of Pittsburgh.
"We want our kids to be grounded and have good solid roots and understand how important it is it give back, not just money, but efforts and time. The time Cindy spends on philanthropic activities is like a full time job and we want our kids to be a part of it."
Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen was also honored, receiving the Bob Prince Award.
"He has become a leader of the Pirates and a leader in the community," said Rooney. "He is somebody that people in the community look up to. He isn't afraid to be involved. He is out and about helping all of the time. He is someone you can reach out to."
The award is named after Prince, the late Pittsburgh Pirates radio announcer and honors someone who embodies his enthusiasm for Pittsburgh sports.
"It is an honor to receive an award named after a man who brought such a great passion for both the City of Pittsburgh and the Pirates," said McCutchen. "Representing the City of Pittsburgh and the Pirates is something that I am proud of both on and off the field."
In addition, Ron and Judi Owens were presented with the John McGrady Award, Ed Bouchette received the Bill Burns Award, while Gerry Kopczynski won the Nick Cardello Senior Award.
About the CYA: The CYA is a true neighborhood community center, operating in five sites and providing social, educational and health-related programs. Among the programs are a summer residential camp for over 200 boys and girls ages 7-14; Meals on Wheels; health and wellness activities for seniors; transportation programs for the elderly; and an intergenerational program that brings seniors and pre-school children together to form a bond.