Games for a good cause


Max Starks and Dr. Tiffany Calloway-Starks

Heinz Field is normally a venue for football games, but on Monday night it was all about video games.

Steelers players took part in Gridiron Gaming, an event hosted by Max Starks and his wife, Dr. Tiffany Calloway-Starks, to benefit the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Guests at the event had the opportunity to take part in an autograph session with the players and then challenge the competitive group to Nintendo Wii video games.

"If you look at how we play football, we are nasty, dirty and don't like to lose," said Starks, who was joined by more than a dozen of his teammates. "You get professional athletes in a competitive environment, we want to win. We are going for the victory."

While the event was all fun and games, it was also for a great cause, helping the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute develop wellness programs for people with physical disabilities.

"The disabled community gets overlooked sometimes," said Starks. "People take it for granted that you can walk, grab things and do the normal activities. Think about an individual who had that opportunity taken away from them. You want to feel like a part of everyday life. Disabled people are equal with everyone and deserve every opportunity to have a normal life. They should be treated the same."

One of the many tools the Rehabilitation Institute uses is "Wii-hab" to aid patients in their recovery and it has proven not just to be a great tool from the medical side, but also something that brings fun to the patients.

"It helped a lot as far as the morale," said Tony Yungwirth, who used the Wii for part of his rehab and is walking again after suffering a cervical spine injury. "You are there with a bunch of people in the same situation. You are depressed. Once you start competing you got to know everybody and had a lot of fun. It really opened everything up. We wanted to get out of bed and do more. It was a great morale boost and motivation. We did games and competing with everyone was fun.

"We were doing it to get our mobility back and you don't even realize you are doing it for a specific reason. It's more fun than work. It's about getting ourselves healthy and having fun."

Starks' wife is a driving force behind Gridiron Gaming and it's personal for her as she is a physician at the Rehabilitation Institute.

"Words can't describe how amazing it is," said Calloway-Starks."It gives the patients a chance to do something else other than the regular gym work and they are so excited. It's a quick way for them to accomplish something, they conquered a game. When they first come to rehab they can't hold the remote, let alone win a game. They work on balance, coordination, strengthening, stretching and range of motion.

"It reminds me that this is why I went into this field of medicine."

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