Hampton's Wyland Elementary students get a Big Ben visit on last day of school

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On the last day of school, the squeals and screams are usually because school is out. But at Wyland Elementary in Hampton yesterday, the squeals and screams were all for "Big Ben" Roethlisberger.

The famed Steeler quarterback's visit was the result of a fund-raiser Wyland students had participated in, selling Big Ben Rib Sauce and other products.

"It was the most successful fund-raiser that we have ever had," said Wyland parent and co-organizer of the event, Karen Schepner. Lisa Sickles served as the other co-organizer.

Since Mr. Roethlisberger lives in the Hampton School District, the fund-raiser seemed like a natural.

"They actually contacted us. There have only been four other schools that have done this fund-raiser, and we are the only ones in the North Hills," she said. "Since he lives here, we thought it was a great idea."

Children at Wyland began in September selling the Big Ben products which included various barbecue sauces, ribs and black and gold candles, Mrs. Schepner said.

As the fourth- and fifth-grade band played "We Will Rock You" and "Here We Go Steelers," the students waited anxiously for Mr. Roethlisberger. The room burst into screams as he ran in, slapping hands of students as he passed by. "Hi, how are you guys doing," he asked, then said, "Is this all the louder you guys can get?" Of course, the screams got louder.

"You know I live right by here so I just rolled out of bed and came on over." More screams and squeals erupted.

Children who sold more than $500 worth of products became members of the "500 Club" and had their photos taken with Mr. Roethlisberger in groups of six. The top three sellers -- Ethan DeBee, Samantha Ott and Matthew Stritzinger -- had their photos taken individually with Mr. Roethlisberger and received autographed footballs from him.

As Samantha had her photo taken, she looked up -- way up -- and remarked, "Wow, you're tall."

The children raised more than $6,000 through the fund-raiser. Of this money, the students presented Mr. Roethlisberger with a $1,000 check for the Ronald McDonald House.

"We know this is your charity of choice and we want to thank you for allowing us to bring this fund-raiser to our school," Mrs. Schepner said as she handed him the check.

One child from each grade was also chosen to ask him questions, and Mr. Roethlisberger shared with the students that he had wanted to be a basketball player but he was better at football. "And I guess I have done all right with it," he said jokingly.

Students were delighted when Mr. Roethlisberger gave a few impromptu throwing tips and tossed the ball with students.

As his visit came to an end, the quarterback gave some last bit of advice to students.

"When I realized I was better at football than basketball, I did my best," he said, "That is what you should always do, give it your best at whatever you chose to do."

Of course, his advice was met with screams.

Kathleen Ganster is a freelance writer. First Published June 12, 2008 4:00 AM


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