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--- Issued February 18, 2014

Seven young residents of the Erie Housing Authority met national football heroes on Thursday February 13, at the 50th Annual Charity Sports Banquet, held at the Bayfront Convention Center.

A number of young Housing Authority residents had a chance to meet football great Paul Hornung at the 50th Annual Charity Sports Banquet.  Paul Vernon Hornung, center, (born December 23, 1935) is a retired professional football player and a Hall of Fame running back for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL from 1957 to 1966.  He won four NFL titles and the first Super Bowl. He was the first in pro football history to have won the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into both the professional and college football halls of fame

Their attendance was sponsored by the Authority at the invitation of John E. Horan, executive director of the Authority.

The event featured Pro Football Hall of Famer and Erie native Fred Biletnikoff, who encouraged the youths to be role models for their peers and signed their football cards and footballs.

The youths attending were chosen because of their own academic accomplishments and also for their involvement in positive activities at the Housing Authority.

The banquet included other pro football Hall of Famers besides Biletnikoff, including, Jack Ham, Sam Huff, Dave Robinson, Paul Hornung, and more.

"The Annual Charity Sports Banquet is an opportunity for our young public housing residents to meet role models, who will hopefully inspire them for the rest of their lives," said John E. Horan, executive director of the Erie Housing Authority.

He cited banquet guest Dwayne Woodruff, who played cornerback twelve seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he accumulated 37 interceptions after being drafted in the sixth round. As a rookie, he won a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.  But his biggest accomplishment, Horan said, was to transition from the game of football to a life of public service.

During his football career, Woodruff obtained his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law, subsequently becoming a founding member of the law firm Woodruff, Flaherty & Fardo, LLC out of Shadyside in Pittsburgh. Woodruff was elected in 2005 to be a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Judge Woodruff and his wife Joy are currently chairpersons of the "Do The Write Thing" (essay competition) in Pittsburgh. The program is an Initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence (NCSV).

The Do the Write Thing Challenge gives middle school students an opportunity to examine the impact of youth violence on their lives in classroom discussions and in written form by communicating what they think should be done to change our culture of violence.

By encouraging students to make personal commitments to do something about the problem, the program ultimately seeks to empower them to break the cycles of violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.

Horan encouraged the youngsters to be like Woodruff and to pursue their dreams and to plan their futures to make their dreams come true. "It is all about doing the right thing," Horan said.

Proceeds from the event go the Fred Biletnikoff Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting youths, primarily from low- to moderate-income neighborhoods or backgrounds, who are at risk of drug and alcohol addiction as well as domestic and gender violence.

The foundation has focused the majority (approximately 80 percent) of resources on supporting programs targeting teens who are low-income, at risk of homelessness, with a history of substance-abuse related problems as well as other mental health issues.

The Foundation was established to commemorate Fred Biletnikoff’s daughter Tracey, who was murdered in 1999 at a very young age. Tracey, after recovering from drug and alcohol abuse through programs like those supported by the Biletnikoff Foundation, dedicated her life to helping “at risk” youth avoid or recover from similar experiences.

To donate to this worthwhile cause, click HERE.