“Are you ready to play some games? Do you think you can win today? Because my teammates and I, we will defeat you!” taunted Steeler’s Defensive End, Cam Heyward to a group of 30 excited children at Dave & Busters on May 10th. The children, who were nominated by staff to celebrate Cam Heyward’s 28th birthday, quickly accepted the dare and swarmed Cam to receive their play cards and “good luck” high fives.
The party guests challenged Cam and his teammates to basketball, air hockey, Mario Kart, Dance Dance Revolution, and several other games, with a good mixture of child and Steeler victories.
After playing some games, it was time for cake and presents. Once everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to the host, Cam reminded the kids that this was his birthday but the party was for them.
With all of the trauma our kids endure, we love the opportunity to see them enjoying themselves. They laugh, they run around, they cause good-natured mischief, challenging these big football players (giant children, themselves) to match them in their favorite game, bragging about their tickets and prizes.
While going to an awesome party won’t make them forget what they’ve been through or diminish the impact those obstacles have on who they are and who they will become, for a few hours, these kids get to experience something any child would be jealous of – they get to feel truly special. They deserve to feel special.
We’d like to share with you some of the KidsVoice staff chaperones’ favorite moments throughout the evening, so you can see a glimpse of what joy Cam and his teammates brought to some of Allegheny County’s most deserving children:
- After a little while, our kids became more and more comfortable approaching the players. Ethan*, 7, actually compelled a player to abandon the game he was in the middle of for a Guitar Hero battle.
- Caden*, 7, was so excited about his ticket haul that he ran to find his older brother to let him know he’d “Won the jackpot!”
- Michael*, 9, kept playing one game for the chance to win a basketball. Carter*, 10, was encouraged to give it a try when Michael gave up on the game. Within a few shots, he had won a basketball. He was proud of his basketball, but on the ride home, when Michael got out of the car, Carter offered Michael the ball, saying “I have one at home, and you tried really hard.”
- One of our staff expressed her delight in seeing one of our kids, Dante*, 15, happier than she’d ever seen him. She thanked a player who had given Dante a lot of attention for making Dante’s night so special and the response she received was “he is making MY day!”
This is the third birthday party Cam has held for our kids but he has also invited our kids to training camp, shoe shopping, and coat shopping. We appreciate these activities Cam and the rest of the Steelers put together for the children we work with. Special experiences like these, which give our kids something to anticipate and look forward to, are invaluable. We are grateful for these opportunities.
*These names have been changed to protect their identity and maintain client confidentiality. KidsVoice does not disclose the names of clients.