The heartache after losing someone to gun violence is “devastating,” said Brandon Short, and it is crucial that those facing burdens as gun violence victims are properly supported.
The McKeesport native and former NFL player announced the launch of the Karli Short Better Tomorrow Foundation on Friday afternoon. It will provide scholarships and mentorship to undergraduate students at Penn State’s Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport who are dealing with the effects of gun violence.
A McKeesport man is charged with killing Mr. Short’s daughter Karli in September, while she was five months pregnant, in what police said was a planned shooting. The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office said in April that it was seeking the death penalty against the gunman.
Speaking at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Downtown branch, Mr. Short noted firearms are now the leading cause of death for kids and teens. He said the statistics are more than just the numbers on the page, though.
“Those aren’t numbers – those are people,” he said. “They’re children, they’re parents, they’re family members, they’re friends all lost.”
Mr. Short, who is a Penn State alumnus and member of its board of trustees, said what he described as the American dream and upward mobility are unattainable for many. The foundation will ensure students have the tools to “leverage their own talent to work hard and reach their potential.”
“It’s so important that we provide not only the financial support, but the emotional and mental health support to get those students the help that they need,” he said.
Megan Nagel, the incoming chancellor for Penn State Greater Allegheny, said many campus community members often find they have a “local connection” lost to gun violence.
“I can’t quote statistics, or specifically tell you what percentage of our students are impacted this way, but that’s just it,” she said. “The trauma and burden that come from being connected to a tragic loss of this manner create scars that are so often invisible. The weight of this emotional burden is often carried in silence, yet we know that it can impact all aspects of a young person’s life.”
Ms. Nagel added that the foundation is attempting to combat violence with what she said was a new weapon – education.
“By easing some of the financial burden of a higher education, along with the mentorship and connection to the Karli Short Better Tomorrow Foundation, I believe we can truly make a lasting impact,” she said.
The foundation will hold an inaugural fundraiser on July 15 at the Omni William Penn hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. Anthony Adams, a former defensive tackle, will host the event. Several other former NFL players are expected to attend, including Steelers Hall of Fame fullback Franco Harris.
A live and virtual auction at the event will feature Super Bowl tickets and sideline passes for popular NFL matchups and other offerings.
Mr. Short did not provide details on a starting amount of scholarships, but noted that additional funds raised would lead to more students receiving help. He said it was “cathartic” for the family to channel its loss in an uplifting way, and honor his daughter who he said “always did her best to make people around her better.”
“To think that we could make something positive of it, that’s what Karli Short would want us to do,” he said.