Steelers champion a good cause

Posted Nov 3, 2011

You could hear the trepidation in 17-year old April’s voice as she spoke in front of those gathered at the CASA Champions for Children event at Heinz Field.

But after a few minutes she read from the poem “Hide Away” that she wrote, and a confident girl quickly emerged. A girl whose life has changed thanks to CASA and the volunteers her poem was directed toward.

“I used to hide away. I believed I had nothing to say.
You kept everything from shattering for me; you kept the pieces of my heart glued together.
You are my love and my inspiration.
You opened up the key to a new world that I loved for me.
You are my faith and my hope and my dreams all in one.
You are the vocals to my voice, and you gave me a choice, something I didn’t realize I had.
You held the tip of my wings so high that now I am able to fly because of you.”

April is one of the 250 kids served by CASA, short for Court Appointed Special Advocates, in Allegheny County. CASA works with children in the child welfare system that are neglected or abused. The advocates serve as a voice for the children in court and other situations to help ensure that every child has a safe, supportive and permanent home.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace served as the honorary chair of the event, something he is happy to do especially after meeting April.

“Any time you can see someone who has been helped by an organization it makes you feel a lot better,” said Wallace. “She was so excited to be here. Any time you can do anything to help kids out is great. A lot of people come from tough situations like those kids. They don’t deserve that. To be able to help them out in any way it’s always good.”
The Steelers and CASA have teamed up thanks to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, whose wife Chris is a CASA volunteer. Wallace, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger kicked off the night by attending a dinner with sponsors, giving them the opportunity to hear April speak.

“Kids are neglected in Allegheny County way too much,” said Roethlisberger. “These things help get those kids out of bad situations and put them into places where they can thrive and strive. These kids are in tough situations. If I can help them out I will do that.”

Brown had to fend for himself plenty as a kid and understands what some of these kids are going through and appreciates that there are people standing up for them.

“These kids weren’t brought into this world by themselves,” said Brown. “Some of the situations they are in may not be their faults. It’s something they have to persevere through. It’s what life is about. It’s a pleasure to do something to give them hope and let them know they can make it through any situation."

After the dinner Wallace and Brown, along with Byron Leftwich, Isaac Redman and David Johnson, signed autographs for guests.

“You can’t put it into words what they do for everybody in the community,” said Arians of the players. “When it is for your family it is very special. My wife asked me three years ago to get a player to be the face. Mike Wallace has done a great job with it and getting the other guys to come out. It means a lot.”

The event is one of the main fundraisers for the organization, allowing them to keep helping children.

“Tonight is about getting our name out there, getting our mission out there and getting people to understand and know the needs of abused kids in our county,” said Melissa Protzek, CASA executive director. “We are so grateful to be partnered with the Steelers. Everybody in Pittsburgh knows the Steelers. They might not know CASA, but they know the Steelers. To have them champion our cause, words can’t even describe how important that is.”