Members of the Pitt football team, specifically, its incoming freshman class, spent Friday at the Mel Blount Youth Home in Claysville, Pa.
The home was started by the former Pittsburgh Steeler and Hall of Famer in 1988. His 303-acre ranch houses approximately 24 children. Children that come to the Home are victims of child abuse and neglect. This is the sixth year that the Pitt football program has gotten involved, coming to work with the kids for a day.
After Blount retired from the Steelers in 1984, he started work on building this ranch and always knew that helping underprivileged children was something he had a passion for. He bought the piece of land after his playing days, and gradually built it up to what it is now. It also includes a barn, where they house seven horses.
There are three main cabins on the property that house the children while they are there. Also while there, kids attend the McGuffey School District. The kids are assigned chores when they stay at the home, many of which include working on the farm, even caring for the horses--something Blount says his therapeutic in many ways. He tries to ride one of the horses once every day.
Blount added that the program has been around so long, that some former kids have come back, some even with kids of their own to show them where they once bunked.
"We got kids who have gone on and excelled, kids that have become ministers, teachers," Blount said. "We've even had kids go out and start their own business. It's like a farm. We bring kids here, and we let them plant their seeds.
"I'm proud of what we're doing, what it means to the young people, and what it means to the community."
Assistant AD/Football Operations Chris LaSala and Director of Life Skills Penny Semaia oversee the project. While still new to the summer conditioning and adjusting to college life, Tyler Boyd says the feeling is already refreshing for him and his teammates to just give something back.
"It feels real good, we're true to everything we're doing," Boyd said. "I felt like some of the kids were down, so we had to get them up with it, get hyped. We did breakdown dances. It just boosted the whole energy of these kids.
Friday, it was the Pitt players coming in to take the children through a bit of a football camp. It started off with some basic football skills--a competition of sorts. That was followed by a run through the obstacle course set up. It closed with a cookout lunch for the players and the kids.
"This is awesome that we can come up and spend some time with these kids," tight end Scott Orndoff said. "We're pretty blessed with what we have. To see them coming out here, having a good time, you can't beat it."