By: Peter Mason Star Tribune Staff Writer
With Averett football kicking off its regular season, the United Way decided to kickoff its upcoming campaign at Averett in the President's suite at Frank R. Campbell stadium on Thursday. The United Way served food to everybody with catering provided by the Danville Golf Club and Mary's Diner. Guests at the event also heard from former NFL player and current teacher at Bonner Middle School in Danville, Donald Smith.
"This is a way of inviting the community in and allowing them to see what we do," United Way member and event planner Vicki Robertson said. "We announce our campaign goal and how much we've raised so far so the community can get behind what we are doing."
The United Way campaign goal for this year is approximately $700,000 and United Way Presdient and CEO, Philip Haley, announced at the event that so far, approximately $80,000 has been raised. This money is money that the United Way will give to its partners to help their causes.
In order to receive funds from the United Way, an organization must be working in the areas of health, education or income.
"We couldn't do it without the community," Robertson said. "That's extremely important. One of the reasons why I wanted to have it here at the Averett campus is because we want the community to understand teamwork."
The campaign kickoff was held during an Averett football practice. Robertson planned it this way so everyone could see the players on the field practicing and working together.
"United Way has had a tremendous impact on our community and they have for many years," Danville Mayor John Gilstrap said. "They continue to do good in our community in helping organizations that help our citizens so I am a strong supporter of the United Way."
Some organizations that the United Way is currently working with include the Health Collaborative, the Dan River Nonprofit Network and the Engage Coalition with Averett.
"We're trying to create things in the community for people to get more healthy active lifestyles," United Way Community Impact and Operations Director, Traci Petty, said. "A person's income really matters as far as health. People who make more money live 16 to 17 years longer."
In his speech, Smith talked about how he grew up to be a successful athlete, stating that he wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for the people who cared about him when he was a child. He said although his wife didn't agree at the time, he wanted to come back to Danville, stating that he wanted to give back to the community that raised him.
Smith is a graduate of George Washington High School. He played college ball at Liberty and spent his NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys in the 1990's.
"I was told I wasn't going to go anywhere," Smith said. "I didn't believe what people said because somebody showed me a vision and I believed I could be more." Smith talked about the importance of educating children so that they could grow up to be successful and stay on the right path throughout their lives before closing his speech.
"The more we keep them engaged, the farther they're going to go, and they're going to stay out of trouble," Haley said. "That's what we're fighting for and I thank Donald for his words."