Pittsburgh Athletes Who Are Winning the Philanthropic Game

By Katie Gaughan

Anthony Rizzo crushes a fastball that soars for the centerfield wall. Andrew McCutchen silences the Yankees who are already celebrating a solo home run. He leaps and extends his glove over the top of the wall, robbing Rizzo of a homer.

T.J. Watt digs his right cleat into the grass as he takes his famous stance. Tom Brady awaits the snap and receives the ball from his center. Watt explodes over the offensive line and robs the Buccaneers of a first down.

Two of Pittsburgh’s favorite athletes in Andrew McCutchen and T.J.Watt have joined the philanthropic game.

During his first run with the Pirates, McCutchen won the hearts of Pittsburgh fans both on the field, and off. The star veteran and returner started “Cutch Charity Week” in 2019 that encouraged other Pittsburghers to participate in volunteer work alongside Cutch himself.

McCutchen and his wife Maria also got involved in 412 Food Rescue after Leah Lizarondo and Gisele Fetterman, wife of Senator John Fetterman, founded it in 2015. The organization recruits volunteers via their app and turns them “essentially into a Grubhub driver,” Project Manager Greg Austin said.

These volunteers drive to restaurants and supermarkets that participate in the cause. “We collect food from them that they would otherwise throw away,” Austin said.

In a CBS interview during 2020, McCutchen said, “I first learned about 412 Food Rescue in 2015, and I’ve been a proud supporter since. Their efforts to end food waste and hunger in Pittsburgh and across the nation embody the Pittsburgh spirit of lending a helping hand to your neighbor.”

412 Food Rescue responded to McCutchen and his wife’s donations of time and money. The website says, “We’re grateful for Andrew and Maria’s steadfast support during these challenging times, as well as the contributions of all our longtime and new supporters.”

Watt has been an active donor and volunteer at 412 Food Rescue since 2021. More recently, since his marriage to professional soccer player, Dani Rhodes, the couple is still actively involved with the non-profit. “T.J. Watt has contributed his time to some highly publicized volunteer efforts, giving 412 Food Rescue a great P.R. campaign,” Austin said.

Referring to both McCutchen and Watt, Austin said, “These two have led to the formation of a relationship with their team organizations, which has actually led to us being able to rescue the foods leftover at the stadiums after games.”

The organization also has a partnership with the Pirates’ catering company, thanks to McCutchen. Austin credits 412 Food Rescue’s high profile in Pittsburgh to these athletes who pursue philanthropy in the city they love, and said that the organization is “really fortunate” to have them.

Austin used Microsoft Teams to discuss 412 Food Rescue with a La Roche University journalism class. The meeting took place during the afternoon of Tuesday April 18th, 2023.

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