Foundation recruiting athletes to spur charity

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The Pittsburgh Foundation enlisted two star football players yesterday in its quest to turn affluent local athletes into philanthropists, with Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and safety Troy Polamalu agreeing to launch new funds targeting children and young military veterans.

Mr. Ward, a Super Bowl MVP, and Mr. Polamalu, the long-haired acrobatic tackler, join 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Max Starks as the three Steelers thus far to establish charitable organizations through The Pittsburgh Foundation, a Downtown-based nonprofit that oversees more than 1,000 funds for individual donors. Former Steeler Dwight White, who played between 1971 and 1980 and introduced Mr. Starks to Pittsburgh Foundation President Bill Trueheart, also is in the process of setting up a fund.

"A lot of people recognize athletes, so we can bring more attention to different causes," said Mr. Starks, who created his fund in 2005 focusing on childhood literacy and education. "We want to be recognized as athletes, but also as humanitarians. ... I really enjoy it, making a difference in at least one person's life."

Mr. Ward, who will make $3.5 million this year, asked The Pittsburgh Foundation to manage his philanthropic effort, which will donate to charitable causes affecting children, "rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by establishing my own foundation." Mr. Polamalu, who will make $1.08 million in 2007, started a fund with his wife, Theodora, and named the venture after Theodora's grandfather Harry Panos, a World War II veteran. The Polamalus would like to help soldiers injured in Iraq -- an idea that began with Mr. Polamalu's visit last summer to female soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Some had been injured by roadside bombs.

The signing of two additional Steelers to philanthropic endeavors is the work of The Pittsburgh Foundation's 14-person Sports Outreach Advisory Committee, a group formed to recruit figures from Pittsburgh's sporting community. It is chaired by former Allegheny County chief executive James Roddey and includes former Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood; Women's National Basketball Association star Swin Cash; Pittsburgh Xplosion general manager Freddie Lewis; Katie Leyland, wife of Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland; and Curtis Randle El, financial adviser for investment firm Hefren-Tillotson and brother of former Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.


Dan Fitzpatrick can be reached at dfitzpatrick@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1752.


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