By: Shelley Bortz/KDKA-TV
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- On the heels of his retirement, Ben Roethlisberger's legacy in Pittsburgh goes far beyond the football field.
When people think of Roethlisberger, they think of the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But others in the community associate the football star with the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation, which supports police and fire departments.
Sheriff Kevin Kraus with the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office said, "Ben has been absolutely great to this office."
Big Ben's love of animals and respect for police officers and firefighters is what prompted him to create the Ben Rothlisberger Foundation. Out of his own pocket, Roethlisberger has given financial grants to departments across the nation to help with K-9 programs.
That's how the sheriff's office got Woody, a bomb-sniffing and patrol dog.
"He's donated thousands and thousands of dollars for dogs, materials, supplies, health care, and overall safety of our dogs. He's been a great asset. And like I said, he's a been a very good friend to this office. Our canine unit would not be as robust as it is, in any fashion, without the assistance of his foundation," Kraus said.
Big Ben's charitable work does not stop there. He has also granted 160 wishes to kids through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Before COVID, Make-A-Wish hosted a child for every home game.
They would meet the Steelers and Roethlisberger at practice, then hang out at Heinz Field for the game.
Dana Antkowiak with Make-A-Wish said, "He would just always make time for them. It was really important and seemed really important to him to do that, and we're just so grateful for all those experiences over the years."
One of the last wishes Ben granted was for Freeport High School football player Garrett King. His wish was to get new uniforms for his team. But what he didn't know was Ben was going to be there for the big reveal.
"Out comes Ben Rothlisberger on the stage to say a few words and surprise all of the guys and then say, I got one more surprise for you and then takes back the curtain and there are the uniforms on mannequins that Garrett had designed for his team," Antkowiak said.
So while he'll go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, Rothlisberger's lasting legacy in Pittsburgh will also forever be cemented in all the good he did off the field.
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