Betty’s Hope, a child bereavement program, was brought to Baton Rouge this week by former NFL star and Catholic High School graduate Warrick Dunn in honor of his mother, Cpl. Betty Smothers.

Smothers was a Baton Rouge police officer killed during an extra-duty assignment in 1993.

A kickoff event for the program was held Tuesday at the Family Youth and Service Center in Baton Rouge.

Betty’s Hope is a mobile children’s bereavement program designed to empower youth, ages 5-18, to manage grief in a responsive environment that gives them a chance to heal and enhance their quality of life, according to an LSU news release.

Betty’s Hope will offer peer-group based grief support; community advocacy and awareness; parent/caregiver support; education and resources; and community support and training at elementary, middle and high schools in the Baton Rouge area.

On Wednesday LSU students in the School of Social Work on Wednesday received a first-hand account of what it is like for a young person dealing with loss, as well as a new opportunity to work in their community, according to the release.

Dunn met with students in the School of Social Work to discuss various volunteer and internship opportunities, as well as to display a special bereavement program mobile unit and discuss his own experiences with loss.

In 1993, his mother, Betty Smothers, an off-duty police officer escorting a businesswoman to a bank to make a night deposit, was ambushed and killed by armed robbers. Dunn, two days shy of his 18th birthday and preparing to attend college at Florida State University on a football scholarship, was suddenly the head of his family, which included two younger siblings. He would go on to an All-American career at Florida State, and play 11 years in the NFL, retiring in 2008. During that time, he has been diligent in his charity work, not only in his hometown of Baton Rouge, but also in Tampa, Fla., and Atlanta, where he spent his professional career.

“The city of Baton Rouge was there for me when I lost my mom, and that always makes it easy to come back here,” he explained. “We’re all one community here, and places like LSU and Southern have students that are in a great position to help folks out.”

“This is such a great opportunity for our students to not only learn, but also serve their community while they do it,” said Daphne Cain, director of the LSU School of Social Work. “It was so great to have him here to relay his own experiences with his loss, and this new mobile unit can do so much for the children in this area.”

“Master’s of social work students saw from first-hand experience the benefit of social workers in programs and the differences that they make in the lives of the community,” said Elizabeth Routon, assistant director of field education in the School of Social Work.

Routon said 20 or more students spoke with Betty’s Hope staff after the program saying they wanted to volunteer now as well as pursue internships there as second-year students.

The School of Social Work will soon be an affiliated internship site with Betty’s Hope. The agency will be working with the school’s first- and second-year students in the two-year master’s of social work program.

“We are in discussions to place students immediately with their program,” said Routon.

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