Part of what makes the Pittsburgh Steelers organization incredibly rare, if not unique, is the fact that they have maintained since their founding in 1933 an immediate lineage from their original, ‘The Chief’, Art Rooney, and have in doing so retained his passion for facilitating an empathetic, familial environment in the way that they go about doing their business.
His son, Dan Rooney, carried the torch, and the team, into their dynasty years all the way through to the late 2000s when he accepted an ambassadorship to Ireland, with his son, Art Rooney II, succeeding him in a role that he maintains today. In the future, his own son, Dan Rooney, who appears to go by Danny to differentiate himself from his grandfather and his uncle, and who is currently on the staff as a coaching assistant, is likely to carry on the legacy.
Part of that legacy is to foster a communal identity within the team’s members, from the players to the coaching staff. While all teams encourage their players to participate in charity work, the Steelers seem to have a disproportionate number of former players who remain in the area after retirement.
That wasn’t exactly the case of Joey Porter, now on the coaching staff, though he didn’t finish his career with the Steelers. But he did carry on the charitable spirit to his hometown of Bakersfield in California, and it was driven by a very intense personal passion.
Porter was recently honored as part of a fundraiser for Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount’s Youth Leadership Initiative charity, which you might recall brought his attention to CJ Goodwin, whom he later directed to the Steelers.
Blount chose to honor Porter for their ‘roast’ not because he is a Steeler, but because of his own work inspired by his daughter, Jasmine, who was diagnosed with autism. He and his wife, Christy, chose to open their own facility, named the Jasmine Nyree Day Center, after being told one too many times that one place or another could not accommodate their child. They quickly learned that many others were in the same boat.
“We wanted to make it a home for kids with special needs so when you walk into the school, nobody is just staring at you”, Porter said. “We had our daughter be stared at and that is an uncomfortable feeling for everybody”. It can be very difficult for people with very limited exposure to those with special needs to even understand their behavior.
“When you come to the Jasmine Nyree Center everybody has something going on, so everybody is normal. They all have problems, and they all know how to deal with them”, he said. “They get the attention and love they deserve. We created an environment where you can safeguard the kids and the parents can feel good where they know their kids are taken care of while at work”.
Christy went back to school in order to receive her certification in order to open the school. Since then, multiple other locations that cater to children up to high school have opened, and their future plans may even include an adult facility.
It is unfortunate that it is so often we find our lives have to be touched by a particular circumstance in order to fully comprehend what it means and what those who have to deal with it go through, and to foster the drive and desire to do something to make it better. But when it does happen, so much good can come through it, and that is the gift the Porters belief their daughter, ‘Jazzy’, has given them and to many others in their hometown area.
Joey and Christy Porter discussed their work with the Jasmine Nyree Day Center back in 2009, which can be viewed here. I highly recommend avoiding the comments section—as should be taken as a given on YouTube. For some reason the second half of the video is mute, unfortunately.