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'I Feel Their Prayers, I'm Blessed By It': Former Steeler Tunch Ilkin, Diagnosed With ALS, Takes Weekly Sunrise Stroll With Close-Knit Group Of Friends To Pray, Find Strength

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Some know him as a former Pittsburgh Steeler, while others consider him to be a really good listener. One who will stop you on the street, and ask how you're doing.

For years, Tunch Ilkin has made an impact on and off the field. His life changed last year when he was diagnosed with ALS. And while he makes it a priority to pray for others -- this time, he's the one getting the love and positive thoughts.

Every Wednesday morning before the sun rises in Pittsburgh's Mt. Washington neighborhood, a group of men meet, they chat, they walk and they pray.

"Proverb 17. It says, a friend is a friend of all times, but a brother is born for adversity," said Jon Kolb, friend of Tunch Ilkin.

With the beautiful view of the city of Pittsburgh behind them, 6 men, linked tightly together in a circle have known one another for years, decades even.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Some were once stand out athletes and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for numerous seasons -- like Tunch Ilkin.

"When I moved up here I started walking everyday," said Tunch Ilkin. It's something he always did alone, until last Fall.

In September, Tunch was diagnosed with ALS. A devastating disease that weakens muscles. Knowing the fight he would no doubt face, the once NFL player's friends decided to give him their strength.

"I feel their prayers and they pray deeply for my healing, so I'm blessed by it," said Ilkin.

"He just has that godly attitude of thanksgiving for all things," said Leo Wisniewski, friend of Tunch Ilkin. A faith that is undeniably strong, but has only grown thanks to the friendships and bonds that formed since his diagnosis.

"The term is iron-sharpener. And we get that from the book of proverbs. Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, and Tunch has been the great iron sharpener to us," said Wisniewski.

"He's just an incredible person who, he does really care about everybody. It doesn't matter who you are, what you are, what you do," said Pittsburgh Police Chief, Scott Schubert.


Known to go on walks himself, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert quickly found himself part of the group. He makes every Wednesday morning a priority to be here. The spiritual connection was one he couldn't turn away from.

"He sees the good in everything. And you're connected with that because you want to see good in everything," said Schubert.

So, for these men, this is more than just a weekly walk, it's a purpose. One they found thanks to Tunch Ilkin.

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