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Old 12-19-2010, 09:53 AM   #1
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Default When it comes to kids, Harrison proves he can be Mr. Nice Guy

When it comes to kids, Harrison proves he can be Mr. Nice Guy
Sunday, December 19, 2010
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10353/1111939-66.stm

Steelers linebacker James Harrison listens in while Ronin Robinson, 10, of Newark, Ohio, tells Santa Claus his Christmas wishes during the inaugural Brunch With Santa hosted by the James Harrison Family Foundation at Heinz Field on Saturday. Ronin was brought to the event by his mother, Teresa Rittenhouse, and her boyfriend, Gregg Mantonya.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen.

But do you know James Harrison?

Not the hard-hitting Steelers linebacker who has been penalized and fined by the NFL, but the soft-hearted man who is helping to bring a better Christmas to children and families in need.

Mr. Harrison and several of his teammates hosted about 350 fans Saturday at the James Harrison Family Foundation's inaugural Brunch With Santa in the West Club Lounge at Heinz Field.

"I guess it's hurting my image a little bit, huh?" Mr. Harrison joked as he welcomed the kids -- and grown-ups -- to the gathering of good will.

Mr. Harrison, who has been fined thousands of dollars for his ferocious hits of opposing players this season, founded the nonprofit organization last month. The timing wasn't purely coincidental.

Fans who didn't approve of the NFL's plan to make Mr. Harrison into a less brutal linebacker started a "Pay James Harrison's Bogus Fine" Facebook page and people began sending money.

"I was actually thinking of starting this next year, but with the fines I was getting and people sending me money ... It got to the point where people were sending me hundreds of dollars in cash, and I didn't have a good way to get the money back to them," he said. "I didn't want it to be a waste. So we went ahead and got it started up."

Tickets to the brunch were $25 for children and $50 for adults. Tickets to the autograph session featuring Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Larry Foote were another $40. Those attending also were asked to donate toys to the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

The event sold out in less than two weeks.

Sure, there was scrambled eggs and Santa. But the real draw was the chance to glimpse a kinder Mr. Harrison.

"I thought it would be something fun. And it benefits a good cause," said Derrick Piatt, a 28-year-old police officer from Toronto, Ohio. "He seems like a great guy. But I wouldn't want him to change the way he plays on Sundays. I love it. That's the way football is supposed to be played."

"On the football field and off the field are two different things," Mr. Harrison said. "I play a game that's violent, and I can't go out there with a smile on my face and do my job to the best of my abilities.

"But I've come to realize that my world may be more than just that of a professional football player. I have a chance to do something a lot bigger. I'm in a position where I can help a lot more than some others. And to help out a child is one of the best things you can do."

Beth M. Tibbott, Mr. Harrison's girlfriend and the mother of his sons, 3-year-old James III and 1-year-old Henry, is an attorney with Tibbott & Richardson, Downtown. She helped set up the foundation and serves as its chief executive officer, bringing in more than a dozen corporate sponsors.

"We wanted to create a legacy for the kids," she said. "What better way to instill that spirit of generosity in your children than to let them see you helping other people? We want our children to see this. And I'd love to see the James Harrison Family Foundation become a fixture in the philanthropic community here in Pittsburgh."

Ms. Tibbott said there was nothing incongruous about a big, mean linebacker hugging and smiling for photos with children.

"He loves kids," she said. "He especially has a soft spot for children with physical disabilities. He's helped kids in different capacities before, but now we're actually able to put something permanent in place."

Sammy Isles, 12, and his brother, Matt, 10, came with their parents, David and Robin, from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., for today's Steelers game against the New York Jets. They saw information about the brunch online and decided to make it part of their Steelers experience.

Meeting Mr. Harrison was a little bit intimidating, Sammy said.

"I was nervous, but he's different when you meet him than when he's in the game," he said. "When he's in the game he's more aggressive. But he's a normal guy, a nice guy. He's much bigger in person. On the TV, he's like only 6 inches tall."

Mr. Piatt, decked out in a James Harrison No. 92 jersey, said the brunch was a great thing for kids, but what fan wouldn't welcome the chance to meet one of his heroes? The outing -- and the Steelers helmet he brought to be autographed -- were early Christmas gifts from his wife, Jessica.

"This is perfect. You can only buy so much Steeler stuff," she said. "You run out of things to get."

More information about the foundation is available at jamesharrisonfamilyfoundation.org.


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10353...#ixzz18ZMlPECF
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Old 12-19-2010, 11:09 AM   #2
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Default Re: When it comes to kids, Harrison proves he can be Mr. Nice Guy

Goodell probably will be fining Harrison another $50,000 for this head to head hit on a defenseless child

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Old 12-19-2010, 12:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: When it comes to kids, Harrison proves he can be Mr. Nice Guy

Terrific and props to James!
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