Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger loves the joy he can bring to a child who he meets through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a child who is battling through tough circumstances but can leave that all behind when they meet their favorite football player.
Now Roethlisberger is finding a new way to help those kids, by not just giving of his time to grant wishes, but also providing financial assistance to help make the wishes possible.
Roethlisberger hosted his first annual Ben Roethlisberger Foundation fundraiser on Sunday night at Jergel's Rhythm Grill, with proceeds benefitting Make-A-Wish and K-9 Police and Fire Units.
"We tried to keep it small at first, starting out slow," said his father, Ken Roethlisberger, who runs the foundation. "So many people wanted to help and be a part of it. Maybe with this we can do a little more. It started with providing the dogs because one in our hometown of Findley, Ohio was killed. That touched his heart. That is where he started.
"He has done a lot of Make-A-Wishes and that touches his heart. He wanted to expand that and do more. That makes his heart feel good."
You can see how much he loves the Make-A-Wish moments when he meets the kids, many suffering from serious diseases but despite it all smiling with excitement when they meet him.
"I love the kids. I don't think that is a secret," said Roethlisberger. "For them to have a wish to hang out with me and to be able to grant that is awesome."
Nobody sees the impact Roethlisberger has on the kids more than Leigh Ann Lubarsky, the manager of program services at Make-A-Wish. Lubarsky accompanies the kids on their Steelers visits and knows what it's all about.
"He brings a unique perspective because he grants wishes and he is good at that," said Lubarsky. "He gets to make the wish happen. Now with the partnership with his foundation he takes it to the next step. He is a wish granter, but is taking it to the next level to make other wishes granted. It's an amazing thing."
The event, which featured 80's cover band Flashback Heart Attack, included a silent and live auction, as well as plenty of fun.
"I have been playing here for nine years," said Roethlisberger. "I love being involved with the community. It's home to me now. To be able to reach out and do something like this, to have people come out and have fun, is great."