When Cameron Heyward talks about his late father, Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward, you can hear the love in his voice.
Heyward’s father died way too young, at age 39, of brain cancer. Heyward was just a high school senior at the time.
It inspired Heyward to be a force behind a t-shirt campaign to promote cancer awareness, and the ‘Pittsburgh is Stronger than Cancer,’ shirts raise funds to help with research and aid families dealing with hardships treatment can create.
Now Heyward is taking on another venture to honor his father’s memory. When his dad arrived at the University of Pittsburgh as a freshman running back, he arrived with one suit, something he was grateful to at least have coming from a single-parent home with six siblings.
There are many young men currently in Pittsburgh facing the same type of battle, many that don’t even have that one suit they can wear to a job interview, or a college recruiting trip, or anywhere.
And Heyward wants to help them.
He has launched ‘Craig’s Closet,’ a program he is doing in conjunction with his foundation, The Heyward House, and Sports Clips to help provide suits, shirts, ties and the necessities to young men in the Pittsburgh area who don’t have the means to attain proper attire for key occasions.
“It’s very important,” said Heyward. “The idea came from my dad. When he grew up he only had one suit. A lot of his friends didn’t have suits at all. This is a creative way we thought of to give back to the community and help prepare young men for jobs, or homecoming, moving forward in life. You never know how much a suit can help present yourself.
“Between my mom, me, my wife, my family, we thought it would be a good idea. It’s been a lot of work, but we got a lot of donations from people.”
Heyward said doing a project like this was something his dad had talked about, but he never was able to make it come to fruition. To be able to live out a dream his dad had, it’s something that means the world to Heyward.
“He cared about a lot of people, he cared about kids,” said Heyward. “Having a suit prepares you for the next part of your journey.
“It’s huge to be able to do this, but I can’t take credit for it all. My mom, my wife, and my aunt have done an amazing amount of work while I have been involved with football. They want to make it great. Finding a venue, getting donations, socks, shoes, suits, ties. Sports Clips has been amazing with the help. It’s been an awesome thing a lot of people have helped with.”
Heyward is hoping to help as many young men in the Pittsburgh area as he can, and it doesn’t all have to be about a job interview. If a suit is what they need for something special, he wants to help.
“We’re just trying to prepare these kids for the future, helping out any way,” said Heyward. “Whether it’s taking your girlfriend out for a nice dinner and you just want to show her how you present yourself. Or if you are getting ready for a job and you understand you want to look sharp and present yourself well, this is your opportunity."