The fifth birthday of Jerome Bettis’ “Caring for Kids Event” was held Sept. 16 at Heinz Field. It honored Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and Judith R. Griggs, Ph.D, of Duquesne University.

PROUD HONOREES—President and CEO Esther Bush of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, left, Jerome Bettis of the Bus Stops Here Foundation and Judith R. Griggs, Ph.D, of Duquesne University.

Sportscaster Alby Oxenreiter of WPXI was the emcee for the evening with entertainment provided by deejay Stephan (Broadus) of the New Pittsburgh Courier. The event is hosted each year by the “Bus Stops Here” Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the overall quality of life for troubled and underprivileged children. Through health and wellness camps, computer literacy classes and reading programs, they provide at-risk youths with resources to learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy choices.

The foundation has served a large number of youths, but there is still more work to be done. As they move through another year, they plan to implement more health and wellness camps, as well as reading and computer programs.

As director of the Bus Stops Here Foundation, Gloria Bettis welcomed everyone to the annual “Caring for Kids Event.” The evening marked the fifth Birthday Celebration of the foundation’s fundraising efforts in the Pittsburgh area.

“We are very excited to share this important evening with you. We have had a busy and productive year sponsoring a wellness camp, computer engineering programs and reading programs. We don’t plan to slow down any time soon as there are still many more youths to reach. On behalf of the foundation, I would like to thank all of our business, financial and education partners. Your contributions and donations make all of this possible. I am confident that with our determination and your continued financial support, we will fulfill our stated mission and positively impact the lives of our youth,” said Gloria Bettis.

When Jerome Bettis is involved in something, usually the whole Bettis family is involved with various programs and projects.

“This is our fifth year of honoring people in the community and Jerome loves children. He believes in giving them an opportunity such as he had. We give them computers and we brought in instructors to make sure the kids are ready to take the PSAT so they can be ready for college. Jerome just wants to help people in anyway he can. It’s rewarding for us to be able to share our blessings,” said Gladys Bettis.

“With all of the things Esther Bush is doing in Pittsburgh, we think it is great and if we can get her in Detroit that would be a major blessing as well.”

As the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, Bush has established herself as a coalition builder and a force for positive change in the greater Pittsburgh community and throughout the United States.

“I am receiving the Humanitarian Award and I am extremely honored about receiving this award because community service is what we do. To receive the Humanitarian Award, I feel very special and for it to come from someone such as Jerome Bettis makes it extra special. I am also honored to receive it because I am in an alumnus of other special people who have received this award before me. I feel as though I’m in great company,” Bush said.

“He has several programs that he operates here in Pittsburgh for the youth. The one that I am familiar with is the one that he does at Duquesne University to teach them how to build computers. At the end of the program they can walk with a computer. It is very important for the youth to know and understand how to use a computer. If you teach someone how to build a computer, they will be tech savvy for the rest of their life and that’s a good thing.

“It’s not just about me, but the people I’ve had the opportunity to be associated with over the years are the ones who deserve the credit. Even though I am the president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh it is also the work done by 100 other people. I am extremely proud of the work the Urban League has been doing with home ownership. We were blessed to receive a significant grant through the stimulus money through Allegheny County as well as the city of Pittsburgh.”

Judith Griggs, Ph.D, Duquesne University, was also honored with a special award for her work for the Bus Stops Here Foundation.

“It is very important for me to work with the Jerome Bettis Foundation and I am honored to receive this award,” she said. “Having an opportunity to work with the Bettises is a wonderful opportunity for me. Gloria and I are always in communication with each other when it comes to the foundation. Some times we are on the phone for hours at time.”

In an eight-week Saturday program, about 20 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from Weil Accelerated Learning Academy learned to use software, assembled their own computers and wrote their personal digital stories under the guidance of Duquesne staff, teachers and tutors.

Each of these students received a free computer that they helped build. These sessions culminated with a visit by Jerome Bettis; mother Gladys and aunt Gloria, who lead the foundation; and brother John, as well as a niece and nephew. Students shared with these visitors and their proud relatives the sometimes humorous, sometimes touching life stories they wrote and presented through PowerPoint shows. Jerome Bettis awarded completion certificates and autographed T-shirts to the students, who previously received wireless headsets and digital recorders from Duquesne, Griggs said.

The mission of the Jerome Bettis Bus Stops Here Foundation is to improve the overall quality of life for troubled and underprivileged children by offering the opportunities to help them succeed in life. The foundation believes that the first step towards self-sufficiency must consist of a strong moral foundation. On this basis, self-esteem, responsibility, education and ultimately, employability are built.

The foundation’s contribution to the young people consists primarily of providing a climate where they feel wanted and accepted by peers and adults and and where they are assisted in acquiring and applying the skills related to meeting their goals. Through the hard work of the foundation, they are presenting possibilities and creating opportunities. They are trying to change the old perception to create a “right here, right now attitude.”

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