By Teresa Varley
Steelers running back Willie Parker served as the honorary chair for the CASA Tailgate Party held in the North Club at Heinz Field.
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.
"I think it's very important to go out and show my support," said Parker. "It's great the way they give the support to the kids. It's a great program. Anything I can do to help I will."
Parker was joined at the event by some of his teammates, including quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, running backs Mewelde Moore, Carey Davis and Najeh Davenport, tight end Dezmond Sherrod and wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and Marvin Allen, all who signed autographs for the guests in attendance.
Also on hand were offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and his wife Chris, who is one of the CASA volunteers, serving the agency for 14 years, most recently in Allegheny County.
"We serve the worst of the worst cases in Allegheny County," said Chris Arians. "It's so true. There are 8,000 kids in the court system in Allegheny County because of abuse and neglect. We get about 500 and those are the worst of the cases.
"To have the players here means a whole lot. They are just so generous with their time."
Bruce Arians went to the players and asked them to get involved, and he had no problem getting many of them on board.
"It's a great organization that helps young kids and gives them hope and helps them find a better life," he said. "To have the players here means so much to me because I see what my wife does every day. Sometimes we are considered heroes, to me she is the real hero and all of the volunteers that help these kids achieve a better life and give them hope, find a new home, a better place where they can grow and develop. Football is a game. This is real meaningful life work."
One of the big advantages of the Tailgate Party is it brings more awareness to what CASA does and opens up the organization to others who might not be familiar with it.
"It's been an amazing thing," said Monica Gay, Development Director for CASA. "We have been able to reach so many more people in the community who would have never heard of CASA. The Steelers are so beloved in this area. To have the Steelers committed to our cause means people who love the Steelers are taking a look at us and learning about us and loving what we do."