Just how tough is Clairton, Pennsylvania?
Clairton has a crime rate that is higher than 87 percent of Pennsylvania’s cities and towns, regardless of size. When you compare Clairton to other communities its size, its total crime rate is much higher than average.
It’s a tough place, but it’s also home to Tyler Boyd of the Cincinnati Bengals. And, thanks to some Buffalo Bills fans who wanted to express their appreciation for Boyd’s unforgettable catch of an Andy Dalton pass against Baltimore that put the Bills into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, it’s also a place that is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
In the face of overwhelming demand, his mother, Tonya Payne, helped him hurriedly set up a foundation to benefit the Western Pennsylvania Youth Athletic Association (WPYAA). The link was up and going by the Wednesday after the game, and, in the first 10 minutes of operation, donations were already in the thousands of dollars.
They hit their goal of $20,000 in eight hours, and had nearly $65,000 by the time they shut down the link Monday, just eight days after the game.
“That’s real priceless to me,” Boyd said in an interview with Bengals.com. “Regardless of the money. That’s all that really matters to me. Showing things I can do to affect people’s lives. Inspire people. That’s what I loved growing up. See, people inspire me in ways to make me want to do something like that in the future. Seeing you doing good for the community. Just making sure people aren’t under the ground.”
The WPYAA is in its first year of operation and consists of 12 football teams made up of kids from ages 7-14 years from around the area. It also has added a travel basketball league to keep the kids active all year long.
A portion of the donations went to the basketball teams, with the remainder going to cover football expenses such as security, officiating, transportation and food. For Boyd, though, it is about more than the money.
Boyd hopes to be the mentor he never had growing up, and to help the kids follow in his footsteps as they look to find their way out of a difficult situation.
“I think the guys really look up to me,” he said. “I try to be as positive as I can. It was really a struggle for me. I had no mentor guys that were in a position I am now to show what it takes for a guy that’s been through it and seen it.”
His advice is simple.
“Listen to the right people,” he recalls telling them. “Don’t foul up each other. I know you guys are friends. Just make sure y’all stay on the right path.”
“Stay sound in school. That’s what I tell them. I tell them I’ll have to pop up on them. I’m going to come in there and check on y’all, man. Just to make sure they expect me to come in and catch them doing something they’re not supposed to do.”