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October 28, 2007

Hank Aaron

Rick Goings

Allan H. "Bud" Selig

Roxanne Spillett


RICH LEVIN: I'd like to thank everyone for coming, and before we make this announcement we'd like to tell you that after this announcement we're going to have another one with the Commissioner and Hank Aaron regarding the presentation of the Hank Aaron Award.
First off, I'd like to introduce the dais. From your left is Rick Goings, the Chairman of the Board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Next to Rick is Roxanne Spillett, she's the president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club. Commissioner Selig, next to Commissioner Selig is Hank Aaron and Hank Aaron's wife Billye.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you, Rich, and good afternoon. We had a press conference here yesterday and some of you are in the same seats, and I trust you did go home and get some sleep overnight.
Thank you for joining us today. Those of you who know me know Hank and I have been friends for 50 years, so it's an honor for me to share the dais with Hank and his wife Billye. I'm also honored to share the dias with Rick Goings and Roxanne Spillett, the President and Chairman respectively of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. They have been wonderful partners.
As I mentioned yesterday at the Roberto Clemente Award ceremony. Major League Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. There is nothing more important than helping children in need, and to help them realize their own personal dreams.
On behalf of Major League Baseball, I'm proud to announce today that we have joined forces with the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to create a new program designed to provide needy children with financial and emotional support to pursue their dreams.
This new program, the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Program, will provide grants to Boys & Girls Club members across the country and on military bases around the world who have demonstrated talent in fields such as music, dance, art, science, athletics, and to give them the support they need to develop their skills to chase their dreams.
Hank and Billye have for many years demonstrated their commitment to helping the youth of our country make better lives for themselves. I commend them for their efforts, and I thank them. I know over the past years how devoted they have been to these causes, and I'm proud today that we're joining forces.
HANK AARON: Thank you very much, Commissioner. Let me say that I could probably sit here and talk for the next 45 minutes and tell you how proud I am this evening of what has taken place. As the Commissioner said just a moment ago, he and I have been friends for a long time, and when I finished my career in Milwaukee, I think he and I stood at the ballpark in Milwaukee, and he at that time wanted to know what my dream was going to be all about. And I told him that -- he wasn't the Commissioner then, but I said Mr. Selig, the most important thing that my wife and I would like to see is to some day see kids across this country be able to chase their dream, and looking back on some of the things that I have accomplished in baseball, I know that if I had not had someone to help me chase my dream, then I would not have been able to play professional baseball.
So in spite of all of the baseball that I played, my wife, of course, an educator, and we two decided that we wanted to help kids across this country chase their dreams, and we pursued that dream, and we have made it a reality.
At this time I certainly would like to thank Roxanne Spillett, who I've known for a long time, and I have been on the Boys & Girls Club for a long time helping them understand and chase their dream. I want to say, Roxanne, this is a tremendous, tremendous evening for me and for the Boys & Girls Clubs across this country to make them realize and chase their dream.
At this time I'd like to turn this over to my wife just a moment and let you know the vacancy in the time that we left Milwaukee and raised money and how we went about it to raise money, and then after that, of course, we're so grateful to the Commissioner and also to Major League Baseball for what they have done. At this time I'd like to introduce you to my wife, Billye Aaron.
BILLYE AARON: Thank you so very much. Henry and I have long felt that we have been blessed beyond measure for time and time again good things have happened to us. And as we looked at the situation around us, we felt that we owed it to ourselves and certainly to our God to try to help others, particularly youngsters who come from financially challenged homes.
That was sort of the background for our coming up with the idea of forming a foundation which really got its start about 1994, and we solicited the help of a number of very dear friends, professionals, attorneys, businessmen and the like, and we came up with the idea of the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation.
Since that time, we have, in commemorating his 755 home runs, assisted a little over 755 kids. We were extremely proud, of course, and we are extremely proud of all of them, but certainly some of them have truly excelled, have gone on to college, are in college now, and are pursuing their dreams.
We feel proud, as proud as we can possibly be, to have played a part in helping them chart a course for their future. We have watched many of them truly excel on the college level in music and science, and I believe in tennis. So these youngsters are moving on with some assistance from the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, and we are very, very proud to say that we played a part in helping them chase their dream.
But we must also always remember the people who helped us formulate first our program, our dream, and then helped us to move that dream forward, to implement it, as it were. And I certainly want to thank, first of all, Commissioner Bud Selig, for he has been with us at every turn, at every phase of our dream. He has been there supporting us, and we are so grateful to you, Commissioner.
On Henry's 65th birthday, whenever that was (laughter), we had a big birthday celebration in Atlanta, and that was truly the launching of the monies that were raised to implement the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation. Initially we had put a few of our dollars in to get it started, but of course it takes a lot of money if you're going to do anything substantive to help youngsters. So we had the good fortune to have at that birthday celebration Commissioner Bud Selig, of course. It was led by Tom Johnson, who is the former CEO of CNN, and we were fortunate to have the good graces of President Bill Clinton, who came and helped us launch that program.
Since that time, as I said, we've assisted over 755 youngsters, but that was yesterday. Today we are just excited. We are excited beyond measure to be affiliating with the Boys & Girls Club, a true partnership, with the help of Major League Baseball.
We were initially, Roxanne, drawing from your kids, even before this partnership came about. But we are so, so excited and so grateful to you and to Commissioner Selig for all that you do and all that you will do to help facilitate this partnership.
I want to say one other word. This new phase of Chasing the Dream will commence next year by supporting the dreams of 44 children each year, or annually, and it is our intention to have at least 44 in the program at any given time. Hence we come up with the name "44 Forever." Now, you remember that because forever means for-ever, in perpetuity. And we hope that youngsters long after we are gone will be chasing their dreams and will indeed remember that one day, at one time in history, there lived a man named Hank Aaron whose number was 44 on his jersey and who indeed accomplished quite a task, quite an achievement of hitting 755 home runs and devoted himself to trying to help other youngsters who came from similar circumstances as his to chase and indeed achieve their dreams. "44 Forever." Roxanne?
ROXANNE SPILLETT: Your words and the way you spoke so eloquently just touched my heart. Thank you so much.
You know, Boys & Girls Clubs of America now has been the partner, the official charity, of Major League Baseball for 11 years, and we have such pride and such gratitude, and we've accomplished so much together that's benefiting young people here in our 4,100 clubs in the United States, and as Commissioner Selig said, on military bases around the world.
We have been privileged, and I do mean privileged, to enjoy the wonderful friendship with Hank and Billye for so many years, a decade or longer. Hank has served on our board of Governors with distinction, he's served as a trustee, but mostly for us he was an inspiration. Make no mistake about it, Hank and Billye are truly devoted to young people. Their hearts are in the right place, and that's what they dedicate their lives to, and their friendship has meant the world to us.
Today's announcement is just another example of Major League Baseball's commitment to Boys & Girls Clubs, and it continues to grow year after year. And on behalf of 4.8 million young people, Commissioner Selig, I'd like to thank you for making all of this possible. And Hank and Billye, I don't know how I can express greater gratitude than to say we love you. We absolutely love you.
And now I'd like to introduce to you the chairman of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, whose day job, by the way, is chairman and CEO of Tupperware Brands, Rick Goings.
RICK GOINGS: Roxanne, thank you very much. Mr. Commissioner, Hank, Billye, it's a pleasure for us to dial this up another level. You guys have been involved for years with Boys & Girls Clubs, and Major League Baseball has, as well. If I was to come up with one word to describe this new initiative, it would be authentic, because Hank and Billye have shown through the years their love of kids because it didn't just start today. This just dials it up.
Authentic with regard to Major League Baseball, they have been so much a partner with us in the past, and that partnership is growing, and it shows their support of American youth.
Finally, it also shows that it's consistent with the Boys & Girls Clubs' mission. Our whole mission is about really enabling young people to reach their full potential, following their dream. As a matter of fact, we just received a new Harris Study that said almost 60 percent of our kids that were alumni of the Boys & Girls Clubs actually saved their lives. So potential is a very fragile word to some people.
Hank is a hero. Everyone knows that. And Lord knows if there's a time in our country where we need to find more heroes, we believe this new initiative is going to inspire a lot of our young people. We have 4 million that come to over 4,000 clubs. What's interesting, what we hope happens, is it maybe uncovers someone like a Denzel Washington or a Jennifer Lopez, both of whom were alumni of Boys & Girls Clubs. Really what we'd like to see, though, is somebody come forward with the sure hands and the strong swing of Hank Aaron. We'd like to see that in the future.
By the way, we are going to create a committee that is really involved in the selection of these 44 young people. It'll be made up of members of the foundation, Major League Baseball, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. And even what makes good news even better is there will be an opportunity to renew the support if we can see the need and progress with young people. So it's a momentous day to dial this up to the next level, and we're so proud. Thank you.

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