During his first season as skipper of the Pirates, Clint Hurdle and his wife Karla launched the "Wins For Kids" campaign here in Pittsburgh. As part of the program, fans were invited to make a monetary pledge for each Pirates victory during the 2011 season, with all of the money raised benefitting Pirates Charities and the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh's Prader-Willi Syndrome Program.
Prader-Willi Syndrome is a rare, complex genetic disorder that affects many parts of the body, and the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh is the only hospital-based site in the world that offers treatment for that population.
The Hurdles -- whose nine-year-old daughter Madison was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome -- actually began a relationship with the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh in 2006 when Clint was the manager of the Colorado Rockies, and last year they made the initial "Wins For Kids" donation by pledging $100 for every Pirates victory.
During the Winter Caravan back on December 15, Hurdle and two of his players -- pitchers James McDonald and Daniel McCutchen -- attended a holiday party at the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh. While they were there, the group visited the Day School, the Prader-Willi Syndrome Program and the Hospital Pediatrics Unit.
In addition, Hurdle took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony where new fitness equipment for the Prader-Willi Syndrome Program was unveiled. The equipment was purchased through the "Wins For Kids" campaign, which raised more than $52,000 in 2011. In addition to donations from fans, corporate support was received from ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, Trib Total Media and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
"It was one of the best days of my life," Hurdle said, reflecting upon what took place on December 15. "To have the opportunity to collectively bring so much joy to so many people in so many different ways was overwhelming, and the reaction of the kids was priceless. Our kids have dreams just like everyone else's. Prader-Willi Syndrome can steal the lives of these children, and it can be quite consuming for the families as well. That's why what's being done here is so important.
"I'm very thankful for all of the people who got involved in the 'Wins For Kids' program and I really believe we're just scratching the surface. You have to remember that we're only a few years in and there's limited awareness. There's no doubt in my mind that more awareness will create more opportunities. But it is gratifying to see the progress that has been made."
Hurdle, who is the national spokesperson for Prader-Willi Syndrome, said he and his family will forever be grateful for the opportunity they had to come to Pittsburgh.
"It was almost too good to be true, this blessing that was right in front of us," Hurdle said. "To have the Children's Institute -- the only facility of its kind -- here in Pittsburgh, and combined that with the professional opportunity I was presented with to manage the Pirates, it was unbelievable. It was definitely a win-win -- a real no brainer.
"The people at the Children's Institute had me at 'hello.' These people get it. Their vision and their focus are incredible. What they have going on here isn't a dream, it's a reality. Karla and I already had a 'Wins For Kids' campaign going in Colorado, so to come here and piggyback with Pirates Charities was seamless."
To make a donation to "Wins For Kids" for this season, please visit pirates.com/winsforkids.