Steelers players in the holiday spirit

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Christmas morning is a special time for kids, wide-eyed and excited as they wait to see what Santa Claus left for them. And for families who are struggling to make ends meet or others who find their children in the hospital this time of year, any bit of help they can get goes a long way.

And that is exactly why Steelers players did their part, giving of their time in an effort to collect toys.

Quarterback Charlie Batch hosted his 5th Annual Toy Drive to benefit Toys for Tots and the Best of the Batch Foundation.

Fans who donated a new or unwrapped toy received autographs from Batch and some of his Steelers teammates at Dave & Buster's at the Waterfront.

Many of the toys will remain right in Batch's Homestead neighborhood where he knows how severe the need is.

"We are in the holiday spirit and there are always people who are less fortunate," said Batch. "We are just trying to make it a better holiday for everybody."

Also on hand signing autographs were Flozell Adams, Will Allen, Crezdon Butler, Dennis Dixon, James Farrior, Ramon Foster, David Johnson, Anthony Madison, Ryan Mundy, Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders, Matt Spaeth, Max Starks and Frank Summers.

"Any time you can do something like this in the holiday season and make it a joyous occasion for other people, I think that's what it's all about," said Batch.

Batch often personally delivers the toys himself, something he loves doing because of the smiles it brings to kids faces, but it's also tough for him.

"It's sad to know that so many kids don't have the opportunities that other kids have," said Batch. "I've delivered thousands of toys for the holidays, and every year when the last toy is delivered, I always wish I had more of them to give."

Later that day linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive end Ziggy Hood and Dixon signed autographs for fans at the Mall at Robinson in return for toy donations for Children's Hospital.

The toys are donated to the hospital's Child Life Department, which provides support and assistance to children and their families who are adjusting to illness or hospitalization. The toys will help make the holiday season brighter for kids who have to be in the hospital on Christmas.

Fans lined up before the mall even opened and their enthusiasm rubbed off on the players.

"The atmosphere is great," said Dixon. "You see the line going from one end of the mall to the other."

Fans brought toys of all types, from baby dolls to cars, stuffed animals to games. And each one will bring joy to a sick child.

"It's an exciting time," said Woodley. "You get people out here giving a toy for an autograph that is going to Children's Hospital. Everything is for a good cause. You get the opportunity to see the fans, shake hands and give toys to the kids at Children's Hospital.

"While most people are at home with their families, they will at least have gifts and toys to play with while they are at the hospital."

Bags of toys were loaded into a special FedEx community truck to be delivered to the hospital in plenty of time to make Christmas special.

"You want to give them something to smile about this Christmas," said Dixon. "It means a lot to put a smile on their face. I like to get out in the community as much as I can. A little bit of your time can make a big difference."

Hood, who became a father this year, understands what it means to see a child smile and is happy he was able to do his part.

"It brings joy to kids," said Hood. "I like to be able to help provide something to them. It's a whole lot better to give than to receive."

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