Steelers Legend Bleier Earns Hance Award

At its 111th Founder’s Day celebration, St. Barnabas presented Steelers great Rocky Bleier with The Hance Award.

Walking into The Washington Place at the St. Barnabas Gibsonia campus was reminiscent of a Steelers tailgate. Black and gold surrounded the room, and an inflatable football player stood in the corner. Energized residents wore American flags along with the obligatory black and yellow as they held signs that proclaimed, “We love Rocky Bleier” and “Rocky’s Our Hero.”

That was before he even arrived.

At its 111th Founder’s Day celebration in April, St. Barnabas presented Bleier with The Hance Award. Given each year to a person of national acclaim who has made a significant impression on American lives, The Hance Award was named after Brother Gouverneur P. Hance, who founded St. Barnabas in 1900. A four-time Steelers Super Bowl champion, Vietnam veteran, author and businessman, Bleier fit the bill. He forever joins ranks with the likes of Fred Rogers, Patch Adams, Debbie Reynolds, General Chuck Yeager and Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, to name a few.

Bleier began his work with St. Barnabas seven years ago when he started participating in the Presents for Patients program. During the holiday season, residents are matched with individuals who visit with them and bring a gift. “It touches people’s lives,” Bleier said. In its 27 years, Presents for Patients has raised gifts and visits for more than 431,000 men and women in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee.

When Bleier arrived at The Washington Place, the residents came alive. “That’s the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on your face,” Angie Borgo, Administrator of St. Barnabas Nursing Home, said to one resident. He made his way around the room, shaking hands and talking with the residents, who lit up as he walked by.

Clarence Liebel and his wife, Anne, were impressed by Bleier because of his humble attitude. A World War II veteran, Liebel lost his left eye and two fingers during his stint in the Marshall Islands. And as Purple Heart recipients, Liebel and Bleier share a common bond. “I think it’s such an honor to have a man of his caliber to be here at St. Barnabas,” Liebel said. “I never saw so much excitement,” Anne adds. “He’s a great man.”



 

It’s not just the residents who are inspired by Bleier’s charity, but, rather, the residents inspire him. “We’re all human beings,” Bleier said. “We have feelings and families. We’ve loved, and we’ve lost. You get to understand that more and bond with those emotions.” He continues by saying that his run with the Steelers was a shared experience by everyone, and when he visits the residents at St. Barnabas, they are taken back memories of younger days. “Anyone that represents that era,” Bleier adds, “It’s like home.”

Later that night, at the Black ‘n Gold Charity “Ball,” hundreds of supporters descended on the Omni William Penn, downtown, to celebrate Bleier’s Hance Award presentation.

Fellow Steeler and Hance Award recipient Andy Russell attended to show his support for Bleier. “We were taught by the Rooneys that it’s important to give back,” Russell said. He added that enjoyed seeing another teammate help with the St. Barnabas organization.

The ceremony began with a video montage of Bleier’s accomplishments, from Vietnam to his last game-winning touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in 1980 to photos of his visits with St. Barnabas residents. Russell, St. Barnabas President William V. Day and Chairman of the Board John J. Curran gave speeches about Bleier’s football career and charitable works. Then Bleier took the stage.

“I know you want this to be brief,” he began his acceptance speech. “But it’s not in the contract,” he joked. As he continued, Bleier talked about teamwork and goals, hopes and failures. Ultimately, though, he said that anything is possible if we choose to believe in our dreams.

Bleier’s contributions to St. Barnabas, whether big or small, make a difference in the residents’ lives. For Liebel, it was seeing a fellow veteran. For others, it’s a chance to see one of their heroes. Though he may not have a cure for their problems, be it illness or loneliness, for a short while Bleier brings them happiness and will continue to do so in years to come.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.
What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

Marathon weekend can be a challenge for both runners, who are trying to finish the grueling race, and spectators who are simply trying to get around. We've got the info you need, whether you're running or watching from the sidelines.
Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook have picked up two James Beard awards this year, and Solomonov is in the running for one more.
Seven Cool Things About Dormont's Hollywood Theater

Seven Cool Things About Dormont's Hollywood Theater

After a decades-long cycle of closing and reopening, Pittsburgh’s oldest single-screen theater continues to enchant visitors.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

The much-anticipated Japanese pub from Tamari's Roger Li and Round Corner Cantina's Derek Burnell will serve food and drink deep into the night.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

The case against TouchTunes, the streaming music loudspeaker that can't stop screwing up the vibe at local bars.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

For the Steelers, this is a draft that’s long on need but short on intrigue.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Off to the Races

Off to the Races

Want to shade yourself in style at Derby Day and the PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon? Look no further.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Reviews of "Mother's Day," "Keanu," "Green Room" and local film news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

Planning your wedding and can’t think of the best favor that will represent you and your big day? We spoke with three Pittsburgh-area couples to learn more about making the best and most personalized decision possible.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Welcome spring at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens with the Great Plant Auction, Party in the Tropics and May Market.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

The Tech Savvy program from the American Association of University Women aims to interest middle school girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Comments