Pirates join Steelers, Penguins for Thanksgiving help

November 22nd, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh’s North Shore featured overcast skies and steady rain on Tuesday afternoon, but spirits were nonetheless high during a Thanksgiving dinner distribution event outside PNC Park. A Pirates contingent led by team president Travis Williams and All-Star closer joined representatives from the Steelers and Penguins to load cars with holiday turkeys, fresh produce, apple pies and gifts from each team for approximately 300 local families in need.

This is the third straight year Pittsburgh’s three professional sports teams participated in the event -- known as the #BurghProud Thanksgiving Dinner Distribution -- in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Giant Eagle supermarkets.

“This has become a great event, and a little bit of rain isn’t going to deter us,” Williams said. “We’ve got our friends from the Steelers, Penguins and Giant Eagle with us, and we’re having a lot of fun passing out food to families in need. It’s great to bring a smile to their faces just before the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Bednar, a Pittsburgh native who still makes his home in the area, has been a member of the Pirates since 2021 and participated in the Thanksgiving meal distribution event all three years.

“This has become one of my favorite events to be a part of,” he said. “It’s cool to see the unity among all three teams, giving back to the community that supports all of us. Everyone in Pittsburgh bleeds black and gold, and it’s great to bring everybody together for a great cause. That’s kind of what Pittsburgh is all about.”

This year, Bednar registered 39 saves for the Pirates and tied Camilo Doval of the Giants for the National League lead in that category. What’s more, for the second straight season, he was the Pirates’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition of his commitment to others.

“I could talk all day long about David Bednar -- and not just about what he does on the field, but off the field, as well,” Williams said. “He’s been tremendous at giving back to this community, a community that he grew up in. We’re very proud to have him as part of the Pirates organization. He’s a big part of everything we do.”

As a hometown boy, Bednar is a big fan of the Steelers and Penguins, and regularly attends their games. So, at Tuesday’s event, he enjoyed the opportunity to exchange pleasantries with Steelers such as wide receiver Miles Boykin and center Mason Cole and Penguins like left wing Jake Guentzel and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

Brian Gulish, vice president of marketing and communications for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, loves the dynamic that having the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins involved brings to the Thanksgiving initiative.

“Pittsburgh is known as the City of Champions,” Gulish said, “and with the three professional sports teams coming together for this event, there’s definitely a sense of community. We serve the community, and the community unites for us -- whether it’s volunteers, donors or these three great organizations -- to help put food on people’s tables.”

Gulish said that, according to Feeding America, one in 10 people in the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s 11-county service area are food insecure, including one in eight children. That’s why events like the one that took place at PNC Park on Tuesday are important. However, the need is far greater than what can be addressed by holiday food distribution events.

“There are numerous initiatives we work on throughout the year with the Pirates,” Gulish said. “They also donate tickets for our volunteers to attend games, they help us raise money and there are a lot of opportunities to raise awareness at the ballpark.

“Plus, David Bednar reached out to us independently and said, ‘In addition to what the Pirates do as an organization, I’d love to work with the Food Bank to help you guys out.’ He’s always been engaged and working to support our organization.”

Like Bednar, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly -- who was born in nearby Butler, Pa., and now makes his home in Pittsburgh -- has participated in the Thanksgiving-related event at PNC Park three years in a row. And it brings him great satisfaction.

“It’s awesome to have the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins here,” Kelly said. “With the teams coming together collectively to give back, and Giant Eagle and the Food Bank being involved, this event continues to grow, even though the weather wasn’t ideal today. I really enjoy doing this.”