For the third straight year, the Steelers have brought happiness and joy to families across the Pittsburgh area through Huddle for the Holidays, a unique outreach in conjunction with Convoy of Hope that provides necessities, simple pleasures, and some holiday love to those who need it most.
Volunteers, including Steelers players and staff, spent several days preparing gift packages for 500 families in the Pittsburgh area. The packages were filled with needs such as groceries, clothing, and health resource kits, as well as what makes Christmas morning special for the youngest in the community, toys, toys and more toys.
The packages were delivered by players and staff to 12 community organizations in Pittsburgh. The organizations, which include Healthy Start Pittsburgh, Jeremiah's Place and Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, are distributing the items to their members who need it most to alleviate some holiday stress in their lives.
"I think it's very important (to help out)," said receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was among a group of players who loaded bags and then delivered them around the city. "A lot of kids, a lot of people, look up to us. We're the face of the city. It's nice to give back to the community. It just shows so much. This is special that the Steelers are able to partner with Convoy of Hope. What they do is unbelievable. The stuff they do for kids is so important."
The Steelers partnered with Convoy of Hope to give back to multiple community organizations in the Pittsburgh area
Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth was happy to volunteer to help with the event, understanding the importance of giving back.
"It's awesome," said Freiermuth. "Convoy of Hope is a great cause, great organization bringing us together to be able to get stuff out there. The Steelers and Mr. (Art) Rooney have a great line of working with the Pittsburgh community. It's awesome to be a part of that, especially as a rookie coming into this and building a relationship with the community.
"Pittsburgh is going to be my home for a while so the more I can give back the more I feel a part of this community."
Former Steelers tight end Vance McDonald was among the volunteers helping pack and distribute items. McDonald began the relationship between the team and Convoy of Hope, a faith-based organization that's main passion is to feed the world through 'children's feeding initiatives, community outreach and disaster response.' McDonald began working with Convoy of Hope before he was traded to Pittsburgh in 2017 and was so moved by the work they do he brought Huddle for the Holidays to Pittsburgh in 2019 and is continuing his involvement with them.
"This is really awesome because the whole purpose of doing the event is to be able to give back to such an amazing city," said McDonald. "Sports is the breath of this town and being able to do this and provide services and supplies for them through an organization like Convoy of Hope is special. To see this continue thanks to the Steelers' leadership means a lot. The people in the Steelers organization love this city to death and it's awesome to see this still happen here."
In it's first year Huddle for the Holidays was an in-person event, but the last two years due to the pandemic the event has been adapted, but the message and the delivery of what is needed hasn't changed.
"Ever since COVID hit, everyone's going through a different situation," said McDonald. "No family is going through the same circumstances. We are coming up on two years now where a sense of normal is sort of lost for everyone. I'm sure there's a lot of families who are in this thing hoping for it to be over.
"Having an event like this is a reminder for them to say like there are still people out here who care. It's kind of glamorous for people to jump in and help out at the beginning of a pandemic when everyone does a lot, there is a spotlight on things. But we're 20 months into this and there's still people that care and an event like this highlights that. What the Steelers stands for, what Convoy of Hope stands for is continued support until people can get back on their feet when there's no longer pressure felt from something like the pandemic.
"It's great to be able to give people a little bit of whatever they need."