Tailgate party more than just a fun gathering

Mike Wallace and some of his teammates did something that they don't often have a chance to do, attend a tailgate party at Heinz Field. It wasn't your average tailgate, though, and it didn't take place on game day.   

Wallace served as the honorary chair for the CASA Tailgate Party, signing autographs along with his teammates for guests who were there to support the cause.  

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.

"When you are a kid you can't always speak up for yourself," said Wallace. "You need others to step up and say things for you. It's always hard to hear something like that, especially coming from a home where I had a lot of love. You never take that for granted. You understand what they are going through."

Joining Wallace were Charlie Batch, Antonio Brown, Keyaron Fox, David Johnson, Byron Leftwich, Antwaan Randle El, Isaac Redman and Emmanuel Sanders.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was also there and the event is personal to him as his wife Chris is a CASA volunteer.

"It special to our family," said Arians. "To have the guys give their time is more than gratifying, but you never lose sight of the kids they are helping and trying to save. This is truly an organization that saves children. It's more than worthwhile and means a lot to us."

Arians understands the abuse and neglect that exists and it tears him up, pushing him to want to get involved.

"It kills me when you hear the stories of what happens to the kids," said Arians. "When you see them do well and have a future, you can't put into words what that means.

"It's the ones we don't get to help, the ones that don't make it that hurt. They are dead because of abuse or neglect. It takes about $8,000 to help one child. Hopefully we can help at least 10 tonight."

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.

"CASA is dear to my heart," said Chris Arians. "It's the way I have been able to give back. The fact that other people are willing to donate their time and effort to support the kids in this county means more than I can say.

"It's priceless to have the players at the event. Everybody loves the Steelers. The fact that the players care enough to come out has to open people's eyes who didn't even know CASA existed."

And the best part of it for the players is the knowledge that a simple autograph is going a long way to help kids who have been forgotten by many. Brown, who had his struggles and had to fend for himself growing up, understands what some of these kids are going through and appreciates that there are people standing up for them.

"There are less fortunate kids, kids put in the world without help and have to fend for themselves," said Brown. "They have no one to take care of them. They are in the world by themselves and it's good for us to give back. I am a prime example of someone who was able to get help and make the right choices.

"They are regular kids. They just don't have anyone loving them. All a kid needs is love and guidance and direction. If they get that they can better themselves."

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