Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis hasn't played for the team since 2005, but his impact is still being felt in the Pittsburgh Community.
Bettis hosted his annual Caring for Kids Gala on Thursday night, benefitting his "Bus Stops Here Foundation," which provides programs for youth in the Pittsburgh area.
Photos from the career of former Steelers running back and Hall of Fame finalist Jerome Bettis.
"I'm proud to have a foundation in Pittsburgh and for it to garner the support of the community," said Bettis. "This is a foundation where we are out there in the community, raising money and trying to make a difference the right way. We are doing what we can and growing. At the end of the day the priority is the children we are able to affect. That is the goal. That always has been the goal and always will be the goal.
"This is a community that means a lot to me because they gave me so much. The Pittsburgh community welcomed me with open arms and really took me in. I really became part of the community in regards to living here, playing here and being appreciated here. It only makes sense to reciprocate that to the city and show how much I appreciate it and want to help the youth of Pittsburgh. I understand we can all help and make a difference."
Among the programs Bettis' foundation focuses on is "The Cyber Bus" Computer Engineering Program, a computer-building program that engages inner-city students not just in the skills to navigate using a computer, but the challenges of building one and computer programming to help them build technology skills. The foundation also has programs to prepare students for taking the ACT/SAT tests, mentoring and reading programs, and much more.
"Education is a key," said Bettis. "Once your education is there, they can't take that away from you. We win games, we lose games and that is a part of life. But the education part of that doesn't go away. That stays with you forever. It becomes an opportunity for you to further yourself. We are here to help and encourage kids and show them you can be a champion as long as you put your work ethic there. Our job is to give them a hand up, not a hand out."
This year's gala honored Ed Stack, the Chairman and CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, with the Jerome Bettis Humanitarian Award. Bettis has teamed with Dick's Sporting Goods on several projects, including their Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education and Sports Matter programs.
"Dick's Sporting Goods have been huge in doing so much for the community," said Bettis. "It's a Pittsburgh based company that could have gone anywhere in the country, but decided to stay here in Pittsburgh. They have done so much not only for kids in Pittsburgh, but all over the country.
"I was fortunate to be a part of a program where they were creating concussion testing for a million kids. It wasn't about them selling products, it was about them creating awareness and setting up baseline testing for kids so that there is some type of baseline understanding that can be used for these kids and might help them down the line. It was all free, something they were committed too. I was fortunate to work on the program and it opened my eyes to how much Dick's Sporting Goods wants to make a difference."