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 ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

1,000 Points Earns Crosby His Own Primanti Bros. Sandwich

1,000 Points Earns Crosby His Own Primanti Bros. Sandwich

Unlike previous Penguins-inspired sandwiches, Crosby’s “The Captain” could be on the menu for years to come.
Pittsburghers Get Fewer Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Fewer Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.
Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

The four are semifinalists for James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the most prestigious of the nation's culinary honors.
Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

No offense to the motor city, but auto companies are eyeing the steel city to develop the next generation of driverless vehicles.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


1,000 Points Earns Crosby His Own Primanti Bros. Sandwich

1,000 Points Earns Crosby His Own Primanti Bros. Sandwich

Unlike previous Penguins-inspired sandwiches, Crosby’s “The Captain” could be on the menu for years to come.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

The highly anticipated restaurant from Derek Stevens opens is located in the Union Trust building Downtown.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

While it's not among Downtown's best, Social House 7 is a fine place for a drink and a bite — but we're stuck on a bizarre element of the décor.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Where else but Pittsburgh would a football player, two years removed from his playing days, be able to raise about $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Reviews of "The Great Wall" and "Fist Fight," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments