Former Steelers safety Will Allen, right, greets kids and volunteers along with former teammate Ryan Shazier at the Will Allen Foundation Holiday Giving event at the West Mifflin Walmart. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

Former Steelers safety Will Allen called on a pair of teammates to help bring home some needed wins for local families on Dec. 13 in West Mifflin. Retired Steelers linebackers Ryan Shazier and Arthur Moats joined Allen and volunteers from the Will Allen Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania to help 60 kids from the Clairton City School District and the Boys & Girls Clubs shop for gifts for their families this holiday season.

“We’re very happy to bring community members around to support and help the Boys and Girls Club and Clairton,” says Allen.

Kids were matched with a volunteer and a $200 gift card to spend on gifts for their families at the West Mifflin Walmart.

Allen welcomed the group with high fives and an introduction before setting them loose in the store.

Some riding in carts, some pulling them, some running ahead of their volunteer shopping partners, kids of all ages explored the Walmart pointing and selecting items ranging from toys to towels.

Former Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats, left, Will Allen, center, and Ryan Shazier pose for a photo with kids during the Will Allen Foundation Holiday Giving Program shopping event at the West Mifflin Walmart. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

Shazier and Moats walked through the aisles stopping to take pictures with the young shoppers and to share their shopping expertise.

“It was cool to hear them thinking about their mom, their stepdad, their brother and sister, people you might not even be considering. The dog! The dog was even getting stuff today,” Moats says with a laugh. “That was beautiful to see them and see them lighting up the way they did. Anytime we’re able to have that type of impact, it’s special.”

For Shazier, it was an opportunity to serve the community and help a teammate.

Former Steelers safety Will Allen greets shoppers and volunteers at the West Mifflin Walmart. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

“A community can be just as important as your own blood,” says Shazier. “To me, it was really important to come and support these kids and their families. It was awesome, just to be able to spend time with the kids. Everyone has different ideas about what’s important to their family members.”

Shazier says it was fun to see brothers buy the same gifts for each other and kids spending extra on their moms this holiday.

Allen started the holiday giving program 10 years ago.

“The first year we had six youth and now we have 60 youth,” he says. “We know the impact is growing. It’s exciting.” 

Former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, left, and Arthur Moats talk to 8-year-old Jayden while shopping with volunteer Linda White. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

Since its inception, the program has reportedly served around 600 kids and an estimated 2,000 family members. 

“I think it’s a real testament to what we are as Pittsburghers,” says new Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania President & CEO Chris Watts. “We care about our communities. It’s awesome to see former Steelers come with us to support the communities that they care about. I love it.”

Allen formed his foundation in 2008. In addition to the giving program, the organization also provides a variety of educational programming to area high schools, including STEM/robotics and health and wellness programs.

“He’s one of the big dogs in the community,” Moats says of his former teammate. “He does a great job of always giving back.” 

Donations to the Will Allen Foundation Holiday Giving Program can be made through the foundation’s online fundraising page. 

Sebastian Foltz is a Pittsburgh-based freelance photographer and writer with contributions to newspapers and magazines in Pittsburgh, Oregon and Colorado. An avid whitewater kayaker, mountain biker and skier, Sebastian has a background in news, sports and outdoor journalism.