At a place where smiles are needed the most, they were delivered in large quantities on Tuesday when the Steelers’ rookie class visited Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
“It’s always a great feeling to come and just give back to the community and with the kids,” said nose tackle Javon Hargrave. “They look up to us. It’s a great feeling to do that and make people happy. If we can do something that is as easy as it is, to show up and play games with them. If we can make them feel good, it’s awesome. It’s a great feeling.”
The players spent time playing a wide variety of games with the kids, from Candy Land to video games, but most importantly they spent time lifting their spirits and bringing joy to the kids and their families.* *
“It’s really cool for them to come,” said 14-year old Austin Ochsenhirt, who enjoyed just spending time talking to the players. “They inspire you a little bit and help you get through what you are going through. I am a big football player so they are showing me how to get through stuff.”
It’s the second time the rookies have made the visit to the hospital as a group, and it’s something that has touched them deeply.
“This is the best,” said linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who was getting beat in a game of Steelers checkers. “To be able to spend time with them, just see them smile. It brings a smile to your face. Words don’t describe this. Seeing how excited they are to spend time with us, it makes us excited.”
While some of the little ones were shy, others wasted no time challenging the players to the games, doing arts and crafts, getting autographs, taking pictures and even making sure to share the fun on Snapchat.
Take a look at photos from the 2016 rookie visit to Children's Hospital.
“I was really excited because it’s all of the new people. Once they become stars I will be like I met all of them,” said Chyna Harper, 15. “This means a lot. They took the time out of their day to come see all of us. It’s all nice down here decorated. It brightens up everybody’s day.”
And even if it was just for the afternoon, the opportunity to escape the reality of being in the hospital is definitely a special experience.
“This is one of our most exciting events,” said Stephanie Colaberardino, Child Life volunteer and family resource center manager. “We use our atrium events as a way to have kids come down and play, get out of their rooms. But when we get to tell them the Steelers are here, they come running out of their rooms. They are so excited. Not only do they get to see them, but they get to play with them. It’s a really big and exciting day for us all.”