Wide receiver Hines Ward was recently nominated for the inaugural 2010 United Nations NGO Positive Peace Awards in the Professional Athlete category by Pearl S. Buck International (PSBI), Inc. for his work with the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation that assists biracial children in Korea.
Ward continued his commitment to that cause when he hosted eight children, ages seven to 16, who are Korean-Asians this past weekend for the Bengals game. It's the fifth year that Ward has brought a group of bi-racial kids from Korea, and it's something he enjoys every time.
"It's great being able to have an impact in someone's life," said Ward. "It's a special feeling for me. Hopefully they can walk away from this experience a better person. Being able to be blessed to have that impact makes you feel good."
Ward, who was born in Korea to a Korean mom and African American father, hosted the kids through the Hines Ward Helping Hands Korea Foundation and PSBI. Kids in Korea are often discriminated against if they are bi-racial and Ward is doing everything in his power to change that and bring happiness to those kids.
"I try to teach the kids it's okay to be bi-racial," said Ward, who brings his son Jadeen with him and delivers the same message to him. "At that age there are a lot of identity problems. For (Jadeen) I try to explain to him there is nothing wrong with being of mixed race, you get the best of both worlds. Instead of using it as a negative, you turn around and make it a positive."
And the visit is nothing but that – positive. Ward welcomed the group at the Pittsburgh International Airport, and then they went to stay with host families who have adopted Korean children.
"It gives us so many opportunities coming here," said Tina, 21, whose dream is to become an English teacher. "I have confidence and think positive and I see everything good here."
On Saturday they enjoyed lunch and played video games with Ward at Dave and Busters, giving them an opportunity to simply be kids. "It's a very exciting place," said 14-year old Son Ham Phuong of coming to the United States for the first time. "There is so much here, so many more things and opportunities than in Korea. It's good to meet Hines Ward. I didn't think he would like video games but he played very well.
"I have sometimes seen football on television. It's a very tough game. I want to play football. I would like to try one time if I can."
Saturday culminated with a dinner attended by the kids and host families and on Sunday it was all about football, the first chance the kids had to witness Ward play.
"To see their faces when they first get here and then when they leave it's like night and day," said Ward. "They don't know what to expect. They have fun, laugh, experience life."
The children are selected to participate by PSBI based on essays they are asked to write about pursuing their dreams. Ward's hope is the children will return home with more confidence and the drive to pursue those dreams.
"Just hearing about the stories they write, they talk about wanting to kill themselves and not have a purpose," said Ward. "Kids shouldn't feel like that. That is why their letters are so touching. By the end of the weekend it brings so much joy to me personally."