In Pittsburgh, it’s something that basically puts a bow on the previous football season and wipes the slate clean for the next year.
It’s a time to move on, to have a fresh start, and once again begin a quest for a Super Bowl Championship.
No, it’s not about free agency, its not about the draft, or training camp, or even anything football related.
It’s about a beard.
On Wednesday night Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel did what he has done the previous four years, he shaved off his beard for charity at Shear Da Beard and emerged in front of a screaming, Terrible Towel waving crowd clean shaven.
“Pittsburgh is a special city and maybe the only city in the world that could do such a crazy event. People have really jumped on this thing. I constantly get emails and letters from fans that are doing similar events, whether they are cutting off their hair that they have grown for years or their beard. There are people out there who are aware and trying to do something good. That is what I am most proud of. Other people have grabbed onto the idea and are making a difference.”
Nobody has made more of a difference, though, than Keisel. The annual Shear Da Beard event benefits the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC, inspired then by former teammate Aaron Smith’s son Elijah who was battling leukemia and undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital.
“Over the years, Brett has been a true champion for the kids at Children’s Hospital and he has a special place in our hearts,” said Christopher Gessner, president, Children’s Hospital. “ He’s helped raised money for our cancer research programs, helped support our Free Care Fund, and brought endless smiles to our patients with his visits. His heart is bigger than his beard, and that’s saying something.”
Keisel is a regular visitor to Children’s Hospital, bringing smiles to kids faces and smiling himself when he sees some of the kids sporting ‘beards’ of their own.
“I think for me the biggest thing is seeing what it has done for Children’s Hospital,” said Keisel. “Doing this Shear Da Beard event, everything goes to them. Any time there has been a doubt, any time I thought about cutting it off and being fresh, I always think about those kids and the ones I met who told me how much it means to them, you keep going. It’s blessed me unconditionally. It’s been an incredible thing for me as well. I love the beard.
“I think that is what makes it special, that is what has made it what it is, because of the response. The kids in the hospital, for some of them, it is a symbol of hope. Especially for some of the kids that don’t have a lot of family or people in their lives. They’ve got a big bearded guy thinking about them and trying to find a cure for this disease.”
It was great seeing so many of Brett’s friends, teammates and coaches show up to support his quest to raise money for the kids. Of course, they were none too shy about being excited to take a swipe at Da Beard!
Brett thought he knew who all of the secret celebrity barbers were…but there were a couple more surprises for him when friends and teammates James Farrior and Casey Hampton took the stage. The crowd went WILD along with Brett!
We will post MANY more photos and news soon! Stay tuned!