By Teresa Varley
Winter is just around the corner and thanks to the efforts of the Steelers and Salvation Army, some young kids will be keeping warm on bitter cold days.
Steelers' players took kids from the North Side Salvation Army shopping at Macy's at Ross Park Mall as a part of Project Bundle-Up, a Salvation Army program that provides winter outerwear for needy children in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
"This year the waiting list is much longer because a lot of people who have been affected by the economy are coming to us," said Major Robert Reel, the Salvation Army Division Commander. "The need is there. They have been laid off of work and are trying to hold down part time jobs.
"The players don't have to do this. This is a night off for them. They take the time out of their schedule and come here and give time to the children. It is so valuable. The kids will never, ever forget it. I have been doing this for awhile and it warms my heart every time to see the players relate to the children and the children relate to them. They work so well together to get the items they need. The Steelers are fantastic at it. They really are great."
Each player is paired with one of the kids and they set off on a shopping adventure to find a winter coat, hat, gloves and scarf, the perfect combination to fight off the winter chill.
"It's a situation where we can do something tangible," said safety Ryan Clark. "You help them get clothes for the winter, which is really important here in Pittsburgh. They can go home and their parents can see them with stuff that they really need. I just want to make sure they get what they want to keep warm.
"Plus, the kids really get excited and we get to bring a smile to their face, joke around with them and show them that we are real people and that the Steelers do care."
Some of the kids headed right for the Steelers jackets, happy to be decked out in their favorite color combination.
"I think he found something faster than I ever would have," said rookie Ziggy Hood, who was paired with a young Steelers fan wearing a Franco Harris jersey. "His favorite color is black and gold so I figured what could be better than a Steelers jacket."
Other players were off to the girl's department where pink and other pastels were popular, but they weren't deterred for a minute.
"Just seeing the smile on the kid's faces has been great," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes. "That is what I enjoy. It's always great to give back to those that are needy. To have these kids here getting the coats and making them smile, it helps them to continue to enjoy life."
The players had just as much fun as the kids, as smiles and laughter were plentiful as they all bonded and became quick friends.
"The excitement you can see on the kid's faces is great," said wide receiver Hines Ward, a regular participant. "I have been doing it for years and always love it. I circle it on my calendar.
"I dress my kid up. It's like my own little Ken doll. I have fun and I try to let the kid have fun. But hopefully they can use these coats and it can help them out during a cold winter."
Based on the reaction from the kids, the shopping was definitely a hit.
"I had so much fun," said an outgoing Angel Davis, age five. "I am so happy. I got a new coat. I think the Steelers are great."
To view a full photo gallery by Teresa Varley, click on Project Bundle-Up and go to Off the Field.