At an annual fund-raiser for Jerome Bettis’ The Bus Stops Here Foundation, the former Steeler running back honored the Rooney family, who he said first sparked his commitment to the community.

“The Rooney family has been very influential in everything I have done,” Bettis said. “A lot of people think it’s important to give money but I think it’s important to give time.”

A LEGACY OF GIVING—Jerome Bettis presents Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II with the 2009 Jerome Bettis Humanitarian Award.

Bettis told the story of how he was first inspired to give back to the community when his team was approached by then owner Dan Rooney, to donate to the United Way campaign.  Currently the team is involved in over 30 community outreach programs with local non-profit organizations and foundations.

“The Steelers have been, I really think, at the top of the list for giving to United Way,” Jerome Bettis said.  “Because of that, there’s no way I could say no whenever anyone comes to me today.”

The Jerome Bettis’ Foundation, established in 1996, is dedicated to helping underprivileged youth in the urban areas of Pittsburgh and Detroit through several programs involving computer education, health and wellness awareness, book drives and scholarships.

At this year’s Jerome Bettis Caring for Kids Dinner, Bettis announced plans for the foundation’s newest program, Asthma Bus. Bettis, who was diagnosed with asthma at 14, has been a long-time advocate for asthma awareness.

Through a partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Asthma Bus will educate children on how to reduce limitations that often occur from asthma. The Foundation’s “Bus Health and Wellness Program” will also include an asthma awareness camp.

FAMILY AFFAIR —The Bettis family comes out in support of The Bus Stops Here Foundation.

“As the leader of the foundation, it’s my job to look forward to what is our next pressing issue,” Jerome Bettis said. “It a great opportunity for us to reach more people and more kids. When you reach children they become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Another one of the Foundation’s critical programs is Cyber Bus, a computer program that partners with Duquesne University and Pittsburgh Public Schools. Through this camp, students not only receive computer education, but they also learn to build, configure and program computers.

Bettis is focused on helping youth overcome issues he once struggled with as a child growing up in inner-city Detroit, including asthma and computer literacy. He said his commitment to helping youth in Pittsburgh comes from his appreciation for a city that immediately embraced him when he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The city fell in love with me much earlier then I fell in love with it. My love came out of their love for me,” Bettis said. “It’s about giving to a community that gave me so much. If I didn’t I would be doing a disservice to all the people who picked me up when I was down.”

Along with many other members of Jerome Bettis’ family, his brother John Bettis attended the dinner to join his brother in championing for the foundation. Together with Jerome Bettis’ mother Gladys Bettis and aunt Gloria Bettis, the entire family works to ensure the foundation reaches as many children as possible.

“Jerome really thought he had to give back to the children of Pittsburgh,” John Bettis said. “Jerome and the whole family love the city in general. It reminds us of home.”

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