November 24th - 26th 2017
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Nikon D750 and D3s w/24-70mm Tamron, 50mm 1.4, 70-200mm Nikon
A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to share an experience of a lifetime with a well deserving kid. Ryan has been diagnosed with a life altering condition with an adjustment disorder. Which causes him to isolate himself making is a struggle to make friends. Ryan is a huge Steelers fan and his dream was to meet Antonio Brown. Ryan's dream was first announced at the Beers and Burpees Crossfit Fundraiser. Dream on 3 is an amazing organization that makes dreams come true for kids living with life altering illnesses and conditions.
Lets get to how amazing this trip was!! I had no idea what or how much to pack, considering we were flying to Pittsburgh and I knew it was going to be cold. Last time I visited Pittsburgh although it was 20+ years ago, I was snowed in for a week. So that is literally all I could think about. Ryan's sendoff started at Applebees where all his friends and family gathered to send him off. Ryan walked in to an eruption of cheers. Meanwhile Ryan still had no idea exactly what was about to happen.
As the crowd calmed down Ryan was presented with some amazing Steelers gear. This included Jerseys and a Fathead.
Beers and Burpees then informed Ryan we were heading to the airport straight from Applebees. Ryan was grinning ear to ear. During these moments I was shooting on my D750 and 24-70mm G2 Tamron. I was accompanied by an extremely talented videographer by the name of Brooks Quinn of Wheelhouse Media. I want to take a moment to thank Brooks for showing me the ropes while documenting my first dream experience. Greatly appreciated!!! After lunch, Ryan his mother Effie and sister Shamieka were greeted by a limo that would escort them to the airport.
Applebees were such great host and treated everyone amazing. They even had their Steelers gear on!!! The atmosphere for this send off was perfect.
Ryan was surrounded by friends and family the entire lunch. We were even visited by former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed.
Our trip to the airport and boarding process was pretty uneventful, until we realized it was their first time flying. This would literally be their first flight EVER!!! I told Ryan "Hey at least your first flight is to go hang with the Steelers". He then gave me a thumbs up!!!
When we arrived in Steelers nation it was time to get to the hotel and rest up for a looooong weekend of events. We stayed at the Omni William Penn Hotel which was gorgeous. This is the same hotel that the players stay the night before games. The great thing about this weekend was that it was Alumni weekend so a lot of past Steelers would be in attendance. You will realize that later with some of the photos. When we arrived at the hotel we received amazing treatment from check-in to checkout. We went got to our rooms there was a banner welcoming Ryan to Steelers nation... socks and other gear. They pulled out all the stops for this experience.
Our Saturday would consist of touring the Steelers practice facility and also getting a chance meet Antonio Brown. What we didnt know is that Ryan would get pictures with numerous players. Which would include Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis and Mean Joe Green!!! Crazy story alert....
While touring the facility we went to the outdoor practice field. However we got locked out and were unable to get back in. Then Effie, Ryan's mom yelled "Hey someone is coming"... Door opens and its Jerome Bettis!!!!
We continued to tour the facility checking out the weight room and locker room. We then went to the indoor practice run through. During the practice all phones and cameras had to be down. During this time we met Joe Green who was extremely nice and asked why Ryan was wearing a hoodie since we were inside. Too funny. (you see there was no hoodie worn in the picture below)
It was then the moment that Ryan had been waiting for.... TO MEET ANTONIO BROWN!!!! When Antonio walked up he gave Ryan dap and a hug. Extremely friendly and made the experience so worth it. He spoke positive words to Ryan about the importance of education and to strive for anything he wants. AB then signed a jersey and to top it all off, took off his gloves from the previous game that he caught the game winning touchdown. He signed them and handed over to Ryan. UNREAL!!!
After time with AB, Ryan was also able to chat it up with Big Ben and get his autograph. Ryan was able to get pictures with so many Steelers as you can see below. All the players were stoked to meet him and they all loved his hoodie!!
After the facility we went to downtown Pittsburgh where I felt like ALL the Steelers fans were. If you needed any gear that was the place to be. It was cool because there were people who recognized Ryan from the news back in Charlotte for his sendoff and they wanted a picture with him.
We then went back to the hotel and got a quick recharge before going to dinner at the AMAZING Eddie V's Prime Seafood. They opened their restaurant early to allow us our own personal time. The food was delicious. Top shelf seafood and steak!!! This was also a first time experience for Ryan to have seafood.
The night wasn't over because we had tickets to sit right on the ice for the Penguins game!! Unfortunately I was unable to bring my camera into the arena but I will tell you that there is nothing like sitting on the ice at a hockey game. Ryan was so excited to be so close to the action and also received a signed Penguins jersey hand delivered by their mascot.
After that long day it was time to go and rest up. Sunday would be the finale which would be a full day of tailgating and a Primetime Sunday Night Football game at Heinz Field. We got the the stadium early and had lunch at Jerome Bettis' restaurant. We even got to eat in his VIP room where a lot of his equipment/gear worn in games was displayed.
While waiting for the gates to open we waited in a tailgating area and watched football on numerous big TVs... not a bad way to relax. When it was time to access pregame Brooks and I walked to the media entrance and we got checked in. We met Ryan at the gate and instantly went on the field for pregame. The photos explain the experience!!!
For the game we were in the club level with our own seating area. It was a little difficult to capture Ryan's reactions, however when that game winning field goal was made... I NAILED IT!!!! Terrible towel and all!!
I can't speak enough on how incredible this experience was. Ryan showed appreciation during every moment and couldn't have happened to a better kid. To be a part of this organization is humbling on so many levels. Being a photographer is a blessing but being associated with causes and experiences like this make it so worth it to keep shooting and share my craft. I want to thank Dream on 3 and Beers and Burpees for allowing me to document Ryan's dream. Look forward to working with you again in the future.
IG @beers_and_burpees @dream_on_3
BAW Photography IG: @baw3_photo