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Western Pennsylvania has a strong tradition of neighborhood, personal and community commitment. Our pride in pulling together goes far beyond supporting our deep-rooted sports teams. 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference honors the individuals that are making a difference in people's lives on the ground level and reminding us we are all truly a part of each other's lives.This special series, supported by UPMC, will highlight, honor and celebrate Western Pennsylvanians who are unsung heroes daring to make a difference to others in our community.00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770c8000000000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770ca000000000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770cc000090.5 WESA PA listening area counties:Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland, Butler, Armstrong, Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Fayette, Indiana00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770cd0000This project is made possible by a generous contribution from UPMC.

After 24 Years On The Baseball Field, This Coach Dedicates His Time To Giving Back

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

Richard Spear has breakfast in the Mercy Hospital cafeteria five days a week. He eats there before heading up to the eighth floor to visit with oncology patients.

“I go in and introduce myself to the patients,” he said. “And a lot of times they spill their heart out to me. Unfortunately for me, I get close to a lot of these people and sometimes it makes it very difficult.”

Spear has a master’s degree in sociology and counseling, but he spent most of his career as a baseball coach at Duquesne University. He said after 24 years coaching, he was ready for a change and became the head of intermural sports at the university, which gave him a little extra free time. That free time was quickly filled by volunteering at the hospital.

More than two decades later, he’s still making the rounds. And that’s not the only volunteer work Spear does.

“I also wanted to do something to help children,” Spear said.

That desire took him to one of the most violent cities in Colombia. It was in Cali, Colombia that he helped found an orphanage that he still visits several times a year. He also spends numerous hours raising money for the orphanage in Colombia and two more in Haiti that he adopted right around the time a catastrophic earthquake in 2010. 

Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Richard Spear heads of to meet with patients in the Mercy Hospital oncology ward.

“It’s a heartwarming place,” Spear said, referring to one of the Haitian orphanages, which cares for girls between the ages of 4 and 14.

“All 20 of the girls had lived on the streets of Port-au-Prince,” he said. “They had been sexually and physical abused. The girls are very happy now and they all go to school. It’s quite remarkable.”

Spear said he couldn’t see himself spending his retirement sitting on a beach or doing laps at the mall. He said he just has to stay busy.

“I must say, I probably get a lot more positive things from this than I give,” Spear said.