Thirty years ago, Bart Starr capped off a football career that included five World Championships, two consecutive Super Bowl victories, and two MVP Super Bowl performances as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. On March 22 Starr was recognized for a lifetime of service when he was presented with the 2003 AmVets Humanitarian Award. The award is in recognition of his personal sacrifice for over 37 years (involving time, finances, and resources) that has benefited hundreds of disadvantaged youth from throughout Wisconsin placed at Rawhide Boys Ranch.
The award was presented to Starr at the 46th Annual convention in Washington, D.C. AmVets is a national American veterans organization that provides professional services and legal advice to veterans, volunteers time in hospitals, and actively pursues veterans issues in Washington, D.C. AmVets membership totals over 180,000, with nearly 2,000 posts throughout the nation.
Starr, who currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, has been directly involved with Rawhide Boys Ranch since it was established in 1965. Rawhide is a successful, faith-based, residential care facility that emphasizes a family-centered environment to teach court-referred young men (ages 13-18) how to live responsible lives. What began as one home serving seven boys in 1965 has grown to six boys homes and numerous foster homes, serving up to 100 boys daily from throughout Wisconsin.
"Bart and Cherry Starr's decision to be a part of the Rawhide team from the very beginning was the key to Rawhide's credibility," stated John Gillespie, Rawhide's founder. "Up until that time, Rawhide was simply a good idea, but when they became involved, the public took it seriously, and accepted it as a charity that would be worthy of their support."
In 1966 Starr volunteered to serve as general chairman for the first Rawhide fund drive. He established regional chairmen throughout northeastern Wisconsin who were local business leaders committed to raising funds for Rawhide. In 1968 he donated the Chevrolet Corvette he won as MVP of Super Bowl II to Rawhide. The vehicle was raffled off in a drawing as part of a fundraising event. Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Starr continued to leverage his success as an NFL quarterback and coach for the Green Bay Packers as a platform for communicating the Rawhide vision. He also made personal contacts in the sports and business worlds to encourage individuals to join the Rawhide effort. He worked tirelessly-participating in fundraising dinners, telethons, and speaking engagements to introduce the new program and encourage financial gifts. Starr also provided vision and ideas for this new and innovative program by serving on its original board of advisors. Bart and Cherry frequently visited the boys at Rawhide, oftentimes bringing their entire family with them.
In 1988 a personal tragedy struck the Starr family when their son, Bret, died of a cardiac arrhythmia. In memory of their son, the Starrs established a memorial fund at Rawhide to benefit the lives of young men who graduate from the program. The Bret Starr Memorial Fund fulfills a lifetime commitment of support to Rawhide alumni through scholarships, housing assistance, and emergency needs.
Over the last 37 years the Starrs have continued to provide benefits to Rawhide including: public relations appearances, television ads, fundraising events, and perhaps their greatest influence-spending personal time with boys at Rawhide.
"Bart and Cherry continue to be an active driving force behind the growth and success of today's Rawhide," explained John Dery, Rawhide's Executive Director. A recent study demonstrated a 77% success rate in producing positive outcomes among court-referred youth at Rawhide.
Starr was nominated by Ms. Lynda Taylor, President of the AmVets Ladies Auxiliary of Wisconsin. "With a history of direct involvement spanning five decades, Bart Starr is indeed a worthy candidate to receive the AmVets Humanitarian Award," Ms. Taylor commented.
Past recipients of the AmVets Humanitarian Award include U.S. Senator John McCain (Arizona); former First Ladies Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, and Rosalyn Carter; and entertainers Danny Kaye, Jack Klugman, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Rawhide Boys Ranch is located on 570 acres near New London, Wisconsin. There are six residential homes, and a school and fieldhouse named in honor of Bart and Cherry Starr (called Starr Academy). Work experience training is also provided. Rawhide is largely supported by donations of cars, boats, campers, and financial gifts. To learn more about Rawhide, visit www.rawhide.org or call (920) 982-6100.