Making school days easier

 School is just around the corner and for many young kids that means time to go shopping for new clothes, backpacks and other essential schools supplies.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have the resources to buy all the necessities, including many of the kids who are part of the CASA program.

CASA, short for Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with children in the child welfare system who 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.

CASA's most recent project was providing kids in its care with backpacks, school supply kits and gift cards donated by the CentiMark Foundation and distributed by the foundation's volunteers and Steelers wide receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on Monday night.

"This is the first time we have been able to do this," said Melissa Protzek, executive director of CASA. "We are thrilled to be able to give these to our kids and their families. To not have to worry about buying school supplies and backpacks and to get gift cards for new clothes and shoes is amazing.

"To be able to go to school with new stuff and not have to take it from the grocery money or something like that, it's a tremendous gift."

Kids ranged from those wide-eyed going to school for the first time to middle and high school students. While there might have been an age gap, one thing was consistent with all of the kids - the smiles on their faces.

"It's always great to come out and do things for kids," said Wallace. "Everybody is not fortunate so when you can do things for kids who come from those less fortunate situations it's always a plus. Anytime we can do that it's always good. We had a good time. There were a lot of smiles. Anytime they are happy, we are happy."

The players took time out to talk to the kids about school, sports and other fun topics, as well as sign autographs for each of them.

"It's an amazing feeling and a blessing to be able to do this," said Brown.  "We are their role models, the people they look up to. Anytime we can come put a smile on their face and make a difference in their day it's always a blessing."

Sanders said he remembers the days when he was in a similar situation to these kids, not being able to get all of the things he needed for school. That is why he was more than happy to help out any way that he could.

"The number one thing for children is education," said Sanders. "The way the world is today with computers you have to really buckle down. It's good to get them started with these things so when they get to the classroom they don't have to worry about school supplies and things like that and their mind is free."

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