Steelers bring smiles and warmth to kids

The temperature on Tuesday might have reached 70 degrees on what was a comfortable fall day, but it won't be long before reality sets in and bitter cold winter days arrive in Pittsburgh.

Thanks to the efforts of the Steelers and Project Bundle-Up, kids from the Salvation Army in the Homewood-Brushton area of Pittsburgh will be prepared.

Players took the kids shopping for winter outerwear at Macy's at Ross Park Mall as a part of the Salvation Army's Project Bundle-Up, a program started by Patricia Rooney, wife of Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, and Joe DeNardo, retired WTAE-TV weatherman, 28 years ago.

"It's a project we have been involved with for a long time," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "It's one of those things the kids have enjoyed being a part of and the players down the years have been happy to be a part of. It sends a good message to the community about caring for people that don't have enough, particularly going into a time of year when you need some of the basics of life like keeping warm and having a good coat to wear.

"In some ways it's a small thing when you think about providing a kid a coat, but it's a long winter and it means a lot for the kids that don't have a coat. It's something we have been connected with for a long time and hopefully will continue to be connected with for a long time to come."

As the kids arrived at Macy's they had no idea exactly what was in store for them. They knew they were going to get winter coats, but a roar went up when the excited group found out it was the Steelers that were taking them shopping to pick out their new gear.

"They didn't know, we didn't tell them. They are excited," said Captain Daryl Calhoun, Commanding Officer of the Homewood-Brushton Salvation Army Corps. "They are going to run back to school tomorrow and tell all of their friends what a great time they had. Project Bundle-Up is such a great program. It takes care of so many needs. It takes care of those that don't have the opportunity to afford a new coat.

"With the economy and the way it is, and the children we minister to, this means a great deal. It helps parents, it helps grandparents. They are excited about this. It's a first-time opportunity for the children to meet people like this. This gives them hope and the Salvation Army believes in hope."

As the players were paired with the kids for the shopping experience, they quickly got to know each other, asking questions and sharing stories with one another.

"Coming here and spending time with the kids is great," said center Maurkice Pouncey. "They really enjoy it and so do I. I love being a part of it. Plus the excitement of giving back, putting smiles on their faces, it's special."

It was then off to the racks in Macy's kids department, with about 35 players helping to select a winter coat, hat and gloves for the kids. Some struggled when it came to shopping for little girls for the first time, while others breezed through finding the right fit in no time.

"I love seeing the kids smile. I love kids so anything for the kids," said cornerback William Gay. "It's exciting. To see somebody excited to get a jacket, because it's going to be cold. It's all fun when we get together with the kids. I am just glad we can be a part of it."

And while it was all about getting the winter clothing, many of the kids also went home with a few extra special treats, from Barbie dolls to race cars that the players bought for them. Running back Jonathan Dwyer, who was joined by his wife Kayla and infant son Jonathan, Jr., was one of those adding a little something extra to the winter gear he picked out for the young girl he shopped with.

"I enjoy giving back to the kids, giving them the opportunity to go into the winter season protected when they wait for the bus or go out after school and play," said Dwyer. "Being a dad now makes you look at life a little bit different. When you look at kids, your heart opens up to them and you want them to have everything at all times. This opportunity to come out here with the, give back to them and put a smile on their face, it's better than anything."

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