The Steelers kicked off their Social Justice Fund for 2021, a program spearheaded by the players that includes donations from them, as well as a matching commitment from the team, to help support community efforts.
Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward started things off with a $50,000 donation to the Homewood Children's Village and a $50,000 donation to Gwen's Girls, both organizations he feels strongly about.
"I think donating is only one aspect of it. I was raised to give back to others and be thankful for what you do have," said Heyward. "Hopefully I can emulate this for younger guys and just for people in general, to give them a chance to give back because so many people need our help. Our youth need to be given every opportunity."
Homewood Children's Village, whose mission is to improve the lives of underserved children and families in the community, became a Social Justice Fund recipient for the fourth consecutive year.
"Helping the Homewood area has always been important to me," said Heyward. "My grandmother literally lives right next to Homewood. Homewood Children's Village has so many people that depend on that that space. It's a great tool for kids growing up, adults to use the space, to help them grow. Not many places are that dedicated to being safe havens for youth to adults. And I just think it's awesome space."
Heyward has visited the Homewood Children's Village as well, spending time with the kids and giving of his time and heart.
"We are extremely grateful for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their consistent investment in the Village over the past several years. Thanks to the generosity of the Steelers, we've been able to help feed families, get holiday gifts for children, and provide academic support and mentorship to youth in our community," said Walter Lewis, President and CEO of Homewood Children's Village.
Gwen's Girls has a mission to empower girls and young women to have productive lives through holistic, gender-specific programs, education, and experiences. Heyward learned more about them this year and wanted to help them in their efforts.
"I did some homework and I got to meet some people that are involved with Gwen's Girls," said Heyward. "I think it's really cool to hear about all they do and how they help kids, young women and work spiritually, holistically, educationally and socially as well. They really do try to look out for these young women. I love what they stand for."
The Steelers have donated to Gwen's Girls in the past through the Social Justice Fund, and the continued support is something the organization is grateful for.
"We are truly grateful for this generous donation from Cameron Heyward and the Steelers through the Social Justice Fund. These funds will go towards our ongoing advocacy efforts through the Black Girls Equity Alliance, a group of community organizations and youth-serving system leaders that Gwen's Girls convenes to address the systemic inequities that impact our girls and all youth in our region," said Dr. Kathi R. Elliott, Chief Executive Officer of Gwen's Girls.
The donation also includes an additional combined $13,000 from linebackers T.J. Watt and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, defensive backs Cam Sutton and Terrell Edmunds, and running backs Benny Snell Jr. and Trey Edmunds, which brings the total of the donation to $226,000 after a matching contribution from the team.
The National Football League announced in 2018 that each NFL team would match player contributions up to $250,000 annually, for the purposes of establishing a fund to support community improvement, social justice and law enforcement relationships.