Photo by Aaron Dobler

Former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch (center) talked about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and setting goals during the 2015 Health and Wellness Fair Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Allegheny in Central Northside

By Aaron Dobler

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Allegheny in Central Northside hosted the 2015 Health and Wellness Fair Saturday, Feb. 28. The event was the culmination of the library’s Black History Month celebration, and included representatives from Pittsburgh-based health organizations and an inspirational talk by former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch.

Batch is now an author, philanthropist and media personality, and his presentation “The Importance of Fitness” challenged and motivated attendees to develop their mental and physical health.

“Sports and education go hand-in-hand,” Batch said.

Batch was born and raised in Homestead, Pa. and when he graduated from Steel Valley high school, he was the first of his family to do so. He worked hard to achieve his goal of playing professional football and recognized that his football career gave him a valuable opportunity to help others.

“I had help, so I’m here to help along the way,” he said.

His Best of the Batch Foundation offers a variety of programs and scholarships to improve communities and help individual students achieve their goals.

“Dreams are nothing more than plans waiting for action,” said Batch.

During the Best of the Batch program, Batch asks students what they want to achieve and then helps them develop a plan to reach their goals. Graduating high school is the first and most important step, but he also actively helps students apply and enroll in higher education programs.

“We always stress the importance of an education and having something to fall back on,” he said.

Even after achieving his own dream of playing football in the NFL, Batch continues to develop and grow his physical and philanthropic projects. About five years ago, he created a vision board to help him identify his own goals, asking himself: “What do I want to do outside of football, and how do I get there?”

When he isn’t speaking or helping students, Batch can be found at the pool adding laps and shaving seconds off his workout.

Batch also spoke of the importance of proper nutrition to mental and physical development. In school, he routinely skipped breakfast but noticed his energy levels lagging throughout the day. He became conscious of what he was eating and drinking, and he experimented until he found a diet that kept his energy levels up.

Gabbi Bucci, a library clerk for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Allegheny, was also on-hand as a representative of the Aging Institute of UPMC to provide information for caregivers and for the elderly entering later-life stages.

“I want them to know about the resources that not only the Aging Institute has, but also the resources we have here at the library,” Bucci said.

She added that it is important for the library to host events like the Health and Wellness Fair because it is a focal point of the community, and the library’s goal is to match patrons with the information that they need.

Cecelia Ware was at the Health and Wellness Fair to discuss the benefits of Tai Chi and encourage visitors to register for the weekly class that she teaches at the library.

“Tai Chi is good for your physical health and your mental health,” Ware said. “It’s a stress reliever, and it helps with balance, strength and endurance. Anyone can do Tai Chi.”

People interested in participating in the class can call the library or visit its website to sign up.

Pharmacy residents Sean McGonigle and Ben Rosati represented Allegheny General Health Network and provided attendees with free blood pressure tests and consultations.

“It’s always important to know your health information,” said Rosati. “Hypertension puts people at risk for strokes, heart attacks and other long-term problems.”

McGonigle added: “We have a lot of information and handouts about why it’s important to control your blood pressure and methods of controlling it.”

They also talked about the importance of taking medications correctly, and how to properly dispose of old medications.

Nearly 50 percent of patients struggle with non-adherence to their medications, and they believe that education is the solution.

“A lot of times, patients don’t know what they’re on their medications for, and that can be a problem because if you don’t know what you’re taking or why you’re taking it, you’re not going to take it,” Rosati said.

The Health and Wellness Fair made the clear point that fitness has both physical and mental components and that success requires long-term commitment and short-term, achievable goals.

Batch’s most important lesson is to “be ready.” This means holding yourself to a high standard, putting in the hard work and doing daily what other people only do occasionally.