Record crowd turns out for a great cause

A record crowd of over 4,000 people took part in the 25th Annual Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids' Kickoff Run at Heinz Field on Saturday morning. Participants enjoyed every aspect of the race, from kids running inside Heinz Field, to families walking, to serious runners tearing up the course.

Safety Ryan Clark* and former receiver Louis* Lipps were honorary chairs, with former Steelers Craig Bingham, Robin Cole, Bryan Hinkle, Chris Hoke, Gerry Mullins, Edmund Nelson, Craig Wolfley and Dwayne Woodruff, many with their families, also participating.

"Any time you can give back to the community and show them we are part of Pittsburgh, that it's not just about football, that it's about everybody here being able to benefit, we are blessed to be able to do," said Clark.

The race benefits the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund, which was established in memory of the late founder of the Steelers, who died in August of 1988 after living most of his life on the North Side. For the former players, taking part is a way for them to continue to honor Art Rooney Sr., known to them affectionately as "The Chief."

"This all started when I was still playing," said Lipps. "The thing you think about the most with The Chief was how giving he was of his time and money. He was always in the community, accepting the fans like they were his children. It's always good to be involved with something that represents The Chief and the Steelers."

Each year graduating seniors from Perry and North Catholic High School, a total of three winners, benefit from the race, receiving a $12,000 college scholarship from the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund. It was a way to do something special for kids from Rooney's North Side neighborhood.

"For me it means a lot to be here and help out," said Hinkle, who attended the first race back in 1989. "This whole thing started 25 years ago to help students in a community The Chief put a lot back into. It shows what kind of man he was and that's why those of us in the Steelers' family will always honor him.

"When I came in I met The Chief and he was always accessible, always in the locker room. It means a lot to be able to carry on his legacy and help out."

This year's scholarship winners are Broughton Ganaway and Shiloh Richards from Perry High School and Bailey Holihan from North Catholic High School. They are among the 72 students that have benefited from the race since it began in 1989.  

Former winner Tennelle Thurman from Perry High School used her scholarship to attend the University of Pittsburgh where she majored in industrial engineering, and then went on to earn her MBA at North Carolina. Now she is doing her part to give back, volunteering for this year's race.

"It's about coming full circle," said Thurman. "I wanted to give back to those that gave to me. I wanted to be able to help make that dream possible for other students, keeping the scholarship alive whether that's giving to it financially or contributing to a cause is important to me.

"Now that I am back in the city I am looking forward to being a part of it. It's an amazing feeling to do it. I was in their shoes and to be able to help them achieve their dreams means everything."

While those that won the race were all aglow with their great accomplishment, the smiles on the faces of the students that benefited are even brighter and that's what makes it special.

"It brings back memories of The Chief," said Lipps. "You go back and look at all of the pictures of The Chief and he is always around kids, people, giving back, doing things for this person or that person. Everybody knows how The Chief was with the neighborhood and his giving and the way he responded to them.

"Playing here made me who I am. I am grateful for that. Even today after all of these years when the Steelers ask us to do things, we do it. It's the Steelers way."

Gatorade was the title sponsor of the race and other sponsors included Giant Eagle, Dick's Sporting Goods, Fuel Up to Play 60, Nike, KDKA-TV, WDVE-FM, ESPN Radio 970 and UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.

Complete race results are available at: Gatorade/Steelers 5K Results

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