Keith Bulluck recalls his mother telling him when he was 12 that he had to live with his best friend’s family for a couple of weeks because money was tight.
“Two weeks turned into six years,” Bulluck, 33, said in an interview at Manhattan’s Four Seasons Hotel New York. “I was asked if I wanted to be adopted or have the Welch family be my legal guardian, and I knew I didn’t want to be adopted. I had to grow up real fast.”
A Blue-Chip All-American linebacker on the football team at Clarkstown High School North in New City, New York, Bulluck earned a scholarship to Syracuse University and graduated with a degree in psychology. He was the Orange’s most valuable player his senior year and was drafted by the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans.
The All-Pro linebacker provides outreach to children through the Keith Bulluck Believe & Achieve Foundation he started about 7 years ago. He will be honored at a gala Tuesday night by New Yorkers for Children, which funds programs for foster children.
The gala, which seeks to raise more than $1.5 million, is a key philanthropic event for such organizations in New York, where there are about 16,000 children under foster care.
Bulluck always dreamed of one day playing with the New York Giants at Meadowlands Stadium about 30 miles from where he grew up. This year, he left the Titans as a free agent and signed a one-year $2.5 million contract with the Giants.
“I always set lofty goals for myself, and I’ve always been able to achieve them,” the All-Pro linebacker said. “My success made me feel happy in that I didn’t have to depend on other people anymore. I could take care of myself.”
‘Incredible Role Model’
“Keith is such an incredible role model for young people who are under foster care,” said Susan L. Magazine, executive director of New Yorkers for Children, in a telephone interview. “He overcame challenges, he had a dream, and he achieved it.”
At Cipriani 42nd Street, Bulluck will receive the Nicholas Scoppetta Child Welfare Award, named after the former New York fire commissioner. Scoppetta, who was placed in foster care when he was 5, is the organization’s founder and board president.
The event will be hosted by former Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks, who also grew up under foster care. Estelle, the Grammy Award-winning hip hop singer of “American Boy,” will perform during the evening. The guests, who will dine on filet of beef, gnocchi and string beans, include “Gossip Girl” star Kelly Rutherford and fashion designers Zac Posen and Jason Wu, one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s personal favorites.
When Bulluck played for the Titans, he gave game tickets to young kids under foster care and brought them to practices to meet other players.
To help students go to college, he established the Steve McNair Iron Will Scholarship fund, named after the former Titan quarterback who was shot to death last year by his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then killed herself.
“It’s hard for some of these kids to get a job, and I tell them to utilize all their resources, talk to your guidance counselors and talk to your teachers,” Bulluck said. “Because if there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The New Yorkers for Children gala is tomorrow at 110 E. 42nd St. in Manhattan. Tickets begin at $1,000. Information: +1- 212-867-1117 or http://www.newyorkersforchildren.org
To contact the writer on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@Bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.