Hometown stars

Published 6:05 pm Friday, May 18, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end Weslye Saunders, Green Bay Packers’ defensive end C.J. Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver Terrance Copper — what do these guys have in common besides being NFL players from North Carolina?

Answer: using their celebrity names for the good of the community.

Saunders turned out for the Boys and Girls Club annual golf tournament fundraiser at the Washington Yacht and Country Club yesterday; last month, Wilson launched his non-profit, C.J. Wilson Helping Hands Foundation, for the benefit of youth athletic programs, the Boys and Girls Club, local churches, and the Red Cross. Copper is reaching out to the community in support of Project Next Step, a Washington Police Department program that runs interference with at-risk teens.

While their celebrity status certainly captures the public’s awareness, it’s the programs behind the celebrity appearances that deserve the most attention.

These programs have a ripple effect: boosting a child’s chance for success — especially an at-risk child’s chances for success — results in an adult later contributing positively to the community and a healthier, safer place for us all to live. In many ways, these programs do our policing, but in the kindest, most supportive manner possible.

Kudos to these professional athletes, among others, who haven’t forgotten their roots and are pleased to use their celebrity status to give back to their communities — that makes them real stars. Those who toil every day, planting the seeds for a better future through community programs, we probably wouldn’t recognize them if we passed them on the street. We should, though. They may not have won a Super Bowl ring, but they’re hometown stars just the same.