Steelers help kids keep warm this winter


Outside the winds were whipping and temperatures dropping, a sure sign that cold weather is on the way.

But inside, the feeling was nothing but warmth.

Steelers' players took 46 kids chosen by the New Kensington Salvation Army shopping at Macy's at Ross Park Mall as a part of Project Bundle-Up, a Salvation Army program that provides winter outerwear for needy children in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

"It's such a wonderful event," said Major Robert Reel, the Salvation Army Division Commander. "To have the Steelers come in and do this for kids from the Pittsburgh area and do some shopping for hats, coats, scarves and mittens means so much. The kids are so excited. For them to get all of the new stuff, that is really special. To know a Steelers player took them shopping it's great.

"The need has increased incredibly. We just started for this year and served 2,800 more people than last year at this time. We are serving the kids and the Steelers are the ones helping us serve."

A total of 34 players took part in the shopping night, being paired with at least one child to help them find a winter coat, hat, gloves and scarf, something they might otherwise go without during the winter.

"I enjoy it," said Bryant McFadden. "It's something I have been doing for a while. It's great to interact with the kids and get them things they need for the winter. You don't want to wait too long. It's better to get them the stuff early. It's great to see them pick the things out. I think I have pretty good taste. They like what they like. We worked together to pick out the best outfit."

Rookie Jonathan Dwyer helped two enthusiastic girls pick out their gear, and they were happy with the job he did at his first Project Bundle-Up shopping night.

"The girls have a lot of joy and enjoy us being out here," said Dwyer. "It's a fun opportunity for us to give back. I had a good time."

Hines Ward is no stranger to Project Bundle-Up, taking part every year. And this year he was teamed with a young boy sporting a #86 Ward jersey.

"This is awesome. It's great," said Ward. "Any time you come out and help, especially when it gets cold in the winter, it's great."

As they picked out the winter gear, Ward had him model his new attire and show it all off, both of them laughing and having fun the entire time.

"Any time you can dress them up it's fun - it's like my Ken doll," joked Ward. "I want to put him in clothes with style because I am a stylish guy. I want to make sure he is dressed nice and warm. "

Some of the kids went for classic styles, but a display of fun and warm animal hats definitely caught the attention of some young shoppers.

"Do you see the hat we just picked out?" said Ben Roethlisberger. "That's how much fun it is. We get to shop and hang out and have a lot of fun. We all need warm stuff, especially in the winter."

Larry Foote was happy to be a part of Project Bundle-Up again after missing out last year when he was with Detroit.

"We had a blast," said Foote. "We had fun. We have some hyper kids out here. They are excited and fired up. The kids are innocent and having a blast. Growing up, having the opportunity to shop with some NFL players, I would go crazy."  

The players had just as much fun as the kids, quickly breaking the ice and joking back and forth.

"It's fun. To give back is great," said Will Gay. "He is so happy to meet a Steelers player and that makes me happy. It put a smile on his face.  You look forward to this every year. It's great to spend the time with the kids."

Ryan Clark took three young boys shopping, and definitely entertained them the entire time, while doing a bang-up job on putting together their winter gear.

"They gave me three really good kids," said Clark. "It's amazing. It's a good time. It's fun to come out here."

As things were winding down, with the players saying goodbye to the kids, the smiles were plentiful.

"It was exciting to make the kids day and see them get what they want," said rookie Antonio Brown. "That's what it's all about, letting them have a good time and get what they want. I look forward to doing it more."

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