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Heyward: 'I don’t take it for granted'

Cameron Heyward has had a heavy heart over the last few days, shaken by the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood that took the life of 11 members of the community.

Heyward walked out onto the field on Sunday afternoon before the Steelers took on the Cleveland Browns, wearing a t-shirt with a red heart with Pittsburgh written in the middle.

Heyward lived in an area of Squirrel Hill early in his career, he was born in Pittsburgh, and he has family that still calls it home.

He loves Pittsburgh, loves the people, and he has always given back to the community, from the heart, the heart that always has Pittsburgh right in the middle of it.

On Monday night, Heyward gathered with his teammates at his annual event, Steel & Stakes, which raises money for his foundation, The Heyward House. The event has been on the calendar for months, and he could have easily decided not to do it.

But this is Pittsburgh, and it’s about helping others, and that was what Heyward and his teammates did on Monday night.

“It’s a very unfortunate event that happened this weekend in our community,” said Heyward. “This is a way for us to focus on the community. Something that is near and dear to not just my heart, but the Steelers heart. Underprivileged children, people with cancer, and The Heyward House as a whole. We care about so many different people, especially those victims and their families from the weekend.”

Heyward’s teammates showed up en masse with around 30 players , from rookies to the most seasoned veterans all there to help him in his efforts to help.

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In the past Heyward did a sit-down dinner, a nice event but one where he felt he and his teammates didn’t get to interact as much as he would like to with the guests. So he shook things up, and came up with a Monte Carlo night.

“I wanted it to be a little more interactive, not just a regular dinner,” said Heyward. “Usually my teammates sit down and I walk around and interact. Now everyone is interacting. Now it’s a little bit of an ice breaker. People get to be less formal and talk a little bit more.

“It’s a great cause. A way to raise some money. We came up with the Monte Carlo night. It’s not real money. We are staying legal. It’s a good way to have fun and raise some money.”

He established the Heyward House Foundation in 2015, an organization that allows him to reach out to others in need, those who could use a helping hand. This year’s event benefits so many in the community, including KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. It also benefits Blessings in a Backpack, providing backpacks filled with healthy food each weekend of the school year to children on the free or reduced government lunch programs. Other agencies Heyward is helping include, but are limited to, are the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, The UPMC Asthma Institute and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“I love that the Heyward House doesn’t cover just one thing,” said Heyward, who said he learned about giving back from former teammates like Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith. “We have grown every year. We have done multiple things. My wife (Allie) has done countless things this year, with the wives going to Children’s Hospital, Cuddles for Kids, and helping to provide backpacks. I have been working with different organization. My mom (Charlotte) helps me in Georgia do things down there. The more people we can help. We care about a lot of people.

“There are multiple things we are doing, I am proud of the success so far.

“This is everything. This is what the NFL allows me to do. I don’t take it for granted. I enjoy every minute of it. That is what being a man of God, being a man who cares about his community does.”

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