Terrible Towel Creator Donates All to Disabled

If they gave out a Most Valuable Tchotchke award, it would have to go to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Terrible Towel. At any Pittsburgh Steelers game, if you don't have a Terrible Towel, you will be in the minority.

"If you ain't got a towel, you ain't got nothing," Steelers vendors yell to fans.

Legendary Steelers radio announcer Myron Cope, who died a year ago this month, came up with the idea in 1975.

"He wanted something that would be easy to carry," his daughter Elizabeth Cope said. "If it hit somebody, you know, there'd be nolaw suits. No one would get hurt."

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The towel started as a block of gold terry cloth with black lettering used to intimidate the opposition.

"The team comes and peers in the tunnel for the introductions," Myron Cope said in his spirited voice in a 2007 interview. "From nowhere come, like, 30,000 towels. Yellow, black, gold towels.

"Bring a yellow, gold or black towel to the game will you. If you don't have one, buy one. If you don't want to buy one, dye one."

The Terrible Towel phenomenon took off during a 1975 playoff game against the Baltimore Colts.

"I just started waving the towel," former Pittsburgh Steeler Hall of Famer Lynn Swann said. "All of a sudden, they picked up their towels and started waving the towel."

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And Cope's trademark rallying cry, "the terrible towel is poised to strike," was born.

Since then, the towel has taken on a meaningful legacy for more than Steelers' fans.

Cope gave the rights for "Myron Cope's the Official Terrible Towel" to the Allegheny Valley School in 1996.

"He said to me you need to make sure that you take care of this and that you protect the Terrible Towel," said Regis Champ, CEO of the Allegheny Valley School, which provides programs for children and adults with intellectual-developmental disabilities. "It means a lot to the city and it's going to mean a lot to Allegheny Valley School."

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Myron Cope's son Danny was diagnosed with severe mental retardation at age 2. He has been a resident at the Allegheny Valley School for the past 27 years. The school serves about 900 disabled students.

Hundreds of thousands of towels, which go for about $7 each, are sold every year. And the school receives a check for tens of thousands of dollars every month. It has received more than $2.5 million in profits so far.

The Steelers' Super Bowl win last Sunday generated huge sales of the towels, which is expected to do well for the school.

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The school uses the money for things Medicaid doesn't cover, like specialized wheelchairs, sensory programs and adaptive communications devices. Thanks to the school, Danny Cope has a quality of life his family never expected.

Myron Cope didn't get to see the Steelers win their sixth Super Bowl this month. But his Terrible Towels were there in his stead.

"Myron understood his mortality," Champ of Allegheny Valley School said. "The one thing that gave him great comfort was the knowledge that the legacy of the Terrible Towel would continue."

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