Jason Witten didn't have the ideal childhood, having grown up a child of divorce in Tennessee. Things were rough at times, he thought. Then, he got a fairly rude awakening about growing up rough.
The despair and, in some cases, hope, among the women there were eye-opening, Witten said. Yet, it was the children of these women that really caught his attention.
He'd seen and read stories about the suffering and abuse of women, but he'd never seen the children of parents who endured domestic abuse. They were real and they laughed and they cried.
NFL Charities Week
What concerned him was that some of those children would grow up thinking that's how people, in particular women, were to be treated. It inspired Witten to play a role in showing them that spousal abuse of women wasn't acceptable.
"You never think about how these children are affected by this," Witten said.
Witten helped start the S.C.O.R.E. Foundation in Texas and Tennessee two years ago. The program works with shelters to provide male mentors for children that needed quasi-paternal guidance and, more importantly, attention.
There are six S.C.O.R.E. programs set in four Texas cities, with two in Dallas. The mission of Witten's foundation was deemed valuable enough for the NFL to provide a $20,000 grant, which will be awarded to Witten on Friday in Grapevine, Texas.
Witten is one of many current and former NFL players whose civic and community-based work will receive more than $1 million worth of grants from the NFL as part of the league's NFL Charities Week.
"There are so many guys in the NFL who do a lot of things who could benefit from the things the league is helping us with," Witten said. "The NFL didn't have to do this but it shows they really are paying attention and want to help us be a part of the community."
The grant will help Witten provide a mentor to the children at a shelter. The mentor program started with male teachers coming by shelters to help kids with their school work. It evolved into more of a nurturing position as kids grew somewhat attached.
"We did an event last year at a store where we bought the kids backpacks, shirts and pants to have and shirts and pants for school," Witten said. "I was following a lot of the groups around the store and the kids were told I was going to be there and I was a player for the Dallas Cowboys, but the person they gravitated to was the mentor they had been dealing with.
"They went to him to see if he liked the clothes they picked out or the backpack. That's when it really hit me how much of an impact these mentors have. It was a really cool thing to see."
Witten was selected as the Home Depot Neighborhood MVP, a program that features NFL players who are involved with their communities.