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PITTSBURGH (Aug. 15, 2022) – The Pittsburgh Knights professional esports organization recently joined together with Pittsburgh’s YouthPlaces and the AD99 Solutions Foundation for a Back-to-School event to distribute supplies for the upcoming school year to elementary, middle, and high school students as part of the team’s “City of Champions” educational initiative.

The organizations gathered together at Pittsburgh’s Faison Elementary School (7430 Tioga St.) along with 30 other community organizations to fill backpacks with school supplies and distribute them to students in the community.  The Knights distributed backpacks and drawstring bags, filled with school supplies, patches, and stickers, to the students.   

Included in each backpack given away to elementary and middle school students was a copy of the book ‘Ezra’s Invisible Backpack.’  “The book was written to promote positive mental health language,” said co-author Dina Rock.  “It teaches that we all have invisible backpacks with bricks that represent obstacles, emotions, and worries that people carry with them each day.  Readers will realize that a smile on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s happening on the inside.

Rock, an elementary school educator for over 30 years, was on hand at Faison Elementary to sign her book, and answer questions from students and parents.  

In addition to the backpack giveaway, the Back-to-School event featured food and games, including a Knights Gaming Zone area that allowed students to test their gaming skills or get a quick introduction to the world of esports.

““As the city of Pittsburgh’s professional esports organization, we want to be a valued member of the community and a benefit to the city, as well as an asset to the youth and students in our community,” said Knights president James O’Connor. “The Knights also know the importance of supporting mental health and of creating a positive, healthy and compassionate space within the gaming industry. Our hope is this event helps students prepare for the upcoming school year by providing them with some of the tools to be successful in the classroom and in life.”

A grassroots youth development initiative, the Knights City of Champions program is committed to inspiring digital literacy by engaging youth from various backgrounds through esports events, STEM learning, and workforce training opportunities.  The belief is gaming can be a path to boost computer and media skills, create community, foster competitive drive, and, ultimately, build a brighter, more equitable future.

Through the City of Champions initiative, the Knights have established Gaming Zones at three YouthPlaces locations.  Opened earlier this year in February, the inaugural Gaming Zone is located downtown at the YouthPlaces (1037 Penn Ave.) in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.  Other Knights Gaming Zones are located at YouthPlaces North (711 W. Commons) and the House of Manna (7240 Frankstown Ave.) in Homewood

All three YouthPlaces Gaming Zones are equipped with some combination of high-speed PCs and HyperX gaming peripherals, as well as XBox consoles.  Eventually, the Knights hope to have a total of five Gaming Zones located in the Pittsburgh-area.

Added O’Connor, “Our hope is the Gaming Zones that we have established and are creating will bring the community together, create connections, drive greater digital literacy, and broaden horizons.”



Team sponsors Zenni Gaming, Boost Gaming, HyperX, Invstr and Sheetz have provided support for the initiative, along with foundation partners The Heinz Endowments and POISE Foundation.

about the knights

The Pittsburgh Knights are a global esports organization headquartered in Pittsburgh. Since launching in 2017, the Knights have focused on entertaining fans, sharing esports, and bringing people together. They solidified their spot in the City of Champions by partnering with six-time Super Bowl winners the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. Since then, Pittsburgh-native and multi-platinum recording artist Wiz Khalifa has come on board as a strategic partner. Adding to their troop is Pittsburgh Penguins’ alternate captain Evgeni Malkin – 3-time Stanley Cup winner. To cap off their powerhouse group, they brought on Mexico City-based media fund MX LATAM in 2019. Officially recognized by Pittsburgh as a premier team, they have partnered with the most talented, innovative, and prestigious sports and entertainment industry leaders – both in the city and around the world.

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