After a year of going just virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steelers Run and Walk, presented by Gatorade, was back to being an in-person event on Pittsburgh's North Shore on Sunday.
But the virtual aspect was still in play after the incredible popularity of it a year ago, with walkers and runners all over the country joining in for a combination of fun, fitness and to support two amazing causes.
The annual race benefits the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund, which was established in the memory of the team's late founder, as well as the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research.
The Art Rooney Scholarship Fund annually provides a grant to a North Catholic High School student and funds the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships for two students graduating from Pittsburgh high schools who are residents of the North Side.
This year's scholarship winners are Shealin O'Shea from North Catholic High School, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh where she will major in business analytics and information technology, and Rooney Scholars of the Pittsburgh Promise, Gamar Muya from Perry High School, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh and major in biology and Jacquay Jackson, also from Perry High School, who will attend Indiana University of Pa. and major in culinary arts.
"I'm actually one of seven, so I come from a very large family," said O'Shea. "My parents are both teachers. So, paying for college actually falls on us. When I knew I had the opportunity to apply for the scholarship, I wasn't sure how many people were applying for it. My school came to me and said that I was able to apply for it.
"I was actually on my way to work when I got the call from the Steelers telling me that I was the recipient of it. It meant so much. It lifted a lot of stress off of me since I had to pay for college myself. It really just meant a lot for me."
O'Shea began her college education this past week at the University of Pittsburgh, excited to get started on her journey. And she is appreciative of all of those who took part in the journey to participate in the 5K, as their participation will benefit her in ways they might never know.
"This is a blessing for me," said O'Shea. "I am just so appreciative for everybody that partakes in it."
And she is even more appreciative of the Steelers. O'Shea grew up around football, her father a high school football coach and the family Steelers fans.
"I have five brothers and they've all grown up playing football," said O'Shea. "I've always been on the sidelines of football games. I actually thought it was really, really special that it was a football team that did this because football's been a big part of my life. It makes it really special."
While O'Shea is just beginning her college path, Katie Senay-Davis is a past scholarship winner who looking back knows winning the scholarship was life-changing.
Senay-Davis won the scholarship in 1990 and never forgot that, coming back this year from the Philadelphia area to participate in person with her family as a way of coming full circle and giving back, something she has done in the past as well.
"The scholarship afforded me the opportunity to go to college, the one that I really wanted to go to," said Senay-Davis different. "I'm one of four kids, so for my family it really meant the world. As I am older, and years after graduation, I have children that are starting the college journey. I realize even more now how much it meant to my family, and how that support of the community investing in the future is important.
"I think it's important, it is full circle. It's important for my children to see that you give back to your community and once a Pittsburgh girl always a Pittsburgh girl. It doesn't go away."
Senay-Davis, who also attended North Catholic, went to the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in nursing. She is still in the nursing field at Chestnut Hill Hospital, her role changing over the years. But it was never as different as it has been since March 2020 dealing with the pandemic.
"It's like nothing I've ever seen," said Senay-Davis. "I've been a nurse for over 25 years. My role is really more of a leadership and support to staff. I am in awe of the resilience of our entire team. Everyone from physicians, nurses, housekeeping, food service, how they have pulled together and thought about how we care for our patients differently. And every step of the way, asking the question, what is in the best interest of our patients before we made any decisions."
Senay-Davis said that despite living in Eagles country, she has raised her kids to be Steelers fans and is forever grateful to the organization for giving back to youth through the scholarship.
"I think it speaks to the culture of Pittsburgh, which is family centered, and family just doesn't mean those true blood, it's your entire community," said Senay-Davis. "It speaks to that they recognize the importance of growing up the next generation and investing in them."
Take a look at photos of the Annual Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids' Kickoff Run. The proceeds benefit the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund and the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research