And, more importantly, there's the Penn's Civilians cause. The event's honorary chairman, Engram was one of several Penn State stars enlisted by ex-Nittany Lion tight end Rick Sayles to help raise money and awareness for the nonprofit venture, which seeks to aid low-income urban children through after-school programs, field trips, homework assistance and a variety of community-service events.
I'm not gonna wing it, Engram said in a phone interview last week. I just haven't put my speech together yet. But it is going to deal with youth and the mission statement that Penn's Civilians is all about, and that's basically the social achievements of the students who live in the lower socio-economic areas in our country. They're underserved, and it's harder for them, so we want to bring awareness of that and at the same time raise some money so that we can actively help. It's not just about the money; it's about the awareness.
Engram has been helping youth in his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, and he and his longtime friend Sayles saw in Penn's Civilians an opportunity to combine their interest in community service.
We've always talked about doing something together in the community because we're both concerned about youth, Engram said. We were doing some things separately, and we were both on the same track. Now we have a chance to come together through this foundation that Rick started. Rick laid the groundwork, and I've been a supporter all along.
It figures to be a reunion of sorts for Engram, who set a school record for receptions with 167 from 1991-95. A number of Penn State greats are slated to attend the dinner. They include Ki-Jana Carter, O.J. McDuffie, Wally Richardson, Darren Perry, Troy Drayton, Dennis Onkotz, Rogers Alexander, Chris Bahr, John Gilmore and John Greene. Also, former basketball stars Curtis (C.J.) Johnson, Brian Allen and Tina Henry, will be on hand, along with a number of other Penn State sports luminaries.
There will be a silent auction of memorabilia including mini-helmets autographed by the players in attendance, a helmet signed by Mark Robinson, a baseball signed by Reggie Jackson and photos autographed by players and other sports greats including Joe Paterno.
I'm sure we'll have some Seattle Seahawks items, and we have a ton of guys from Penn State who are lending support, Engram said. All of us are going to get some things signed by different people to raise money, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to help these kids.
Penn's Civilians was created by Sayles in 2002 to provide academic and social support to urban youth. It began with a pilot program at Steelton Highspire High and has been growing with the help of the Penn State sports community. There are programs in Harrisburg and State College, and organizers hope to bring Penn's Civilians to other communities throughout the state.
The First Annual Penn's Civilians Fundraising Dinner runs from 6-9 p.m. April 21 at the Ramada Inn in State College. Organizers hope to attract 120 attendees and raise $10,000. Seats are $100, and there are sponsorship opportunities beginning at $1,000.
Players said they were excited to see Penn's Civilians thriving under Sayles' leadership.
He's been doing it for a while, and I've been putting in my two cents, said Carter, an All-America tailback on the Lions' unbeaten 1994 Rose Bowl team. It's really taking off now, which is good to see. He was going through some trial stages, trying to get some funding, and I've tried to stay involved. I'm glad it's finally paying off.
Those wishing to find out more about Penn's Civilians can contact board president Curt Marshall at email@example.com or Curtis Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
There is also a Web site, www.pennscivilians.org, that details the organization's mission and offers printable ticket forms for the fundraising dinner.