It wasn't Steelers game day, but it sure felt like it on Friday night when Ryan Shazier kicked off his newly created Shalieve Fight Foundation.
The Milk Shake Factory held a 'pep rally' at their new location in McCandless as Shazier unveiled his foundation and they premiered the "Shalieve Shake." The strawberry shake, which Shazier said is "really, really good," is made with crushed cookies and cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and is topped with a chocolate "Shalieve" lion, which became a symbol for Shazier. The Milk Shake Factory is donating $1 from the sale of each "Shalieve Shake" during September to his foundation.
"It's a fun way, a Pittsburgh way of doing things. Pittsburgh loves football and the community," said Shazier. "I just wanted to let people know about the foundation, but also work with a local company I am close to. I thought it was a fun way to kick off something new, but let people know what I am doing with my foundation.
"I am excited about the outpouring of people and the interest they have in my foundation."
Shazier said he has always wanted to find a way to give back to the community, and the spinal cord injury he suffered in 2017 elevated that desire. His foundation is focused on helping others who have suffered spinal cord injuries, focusing right now on those in the Western Pennsylvania area.
"I had tremendous care from the people at UPMC and everywhere," said Shazier. "They have been so supportive of me. I just want to be able to give people the same kind of care that I got. My whole life I always wanted to treat people with respect and treat people the way I want to be treated. I want to do the same thing when it comes to rehab, therapy and recovery.
"I got so much help. I don't feel like it's right to get help and support from others and not give back. I would rather give than receive, that is in the Bible. The more blessings that come our way, it's better to pour them out to others and help them. We want to empower people who are going through this."
Shazier said since his injury he has heard from a lot of people who have suffered spinal cord injuries, many who fight a very private battle and need a helping hand. He has become an inspiration to many, something that can be a challenge and a great reward at the same time.
"It's a heavy task because everything you do people are looking at you," said Shazier. "People are hoping they can be like you. But it's a blessing because you have a following of people that want you to be strong, believe in you and believe some day they can be in the same shoes as you.
"It's sad that so many people are dealing with spinal cord injuries. People reaching out to me makes me want to help more. To be able to do this foundation, it means a lot. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to help others, to be in the shoes I am in to be able to help.
"It took me a while to figure out what foundation I wanted to do. But when this situation happened to me, and I learned what goes into it, I decided I want to be a voice for people with spinal cord injuries."