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

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.
Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

A proposed route for new electric buses will connect 30,000 people throughout 24 neighborhoods.
Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a movie based on the best-selling comedic novel, will begin filming in the ‘Burgh next month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

The desire for more a year ago helped fuel the Penguins’ quest to repeat this season. Should their thirst for yet another Cup prove as unquenchable next season, there’s no limit to what they might yet achieve. Even a Three-peat.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

You’ll definitely want to pin these new summer wedding trends to your Pinterest board.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments