HOUSTON -- He grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Newark, N.J., where the only things that kept him out of trouble were a loving single mother and a dedication to sports. While some kids in the neighborhood dabbled in gangs or drugs, Porter took advantage of afterschool programs to try to stay as active as possible.
Legendary University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry plucked Porter away from Newark and took him halfway across the country and to a new world, where he wound up as a two-sport star for the Hawkeyes. A professional baseball career followed, and now Porter has one year under his belt as the manager of the Astros.
Along the way, Porter has never forgotten where he came from or where he is. That's why Porter and his wife, Stacey, have dedicated themselves to being positives influences in the Houston community where she grew up -- a place Bo has called home for 17 years.
The Porters on Thursday night are playing host to the star-studded "A Legacy Lasts Forever Dinner," which will benefit the Bo Porter S.E.L.F. Foundation. More than 400 people are expected at the dinner at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston. The event will pay tribute to Fry, who will be in attendance, and will feature Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson as the keynote speaker.
Veteran broadcaster Brett Dolan, also an Iowa alum, will serve as emcee.
"If it wasn't for community programs, I wouldn't be where I'm at today," Porter said. "There were organizations and coaches that were like extended family to me and really played a major role in my overall development and getting a lot of the opportunities that were afforded to me.
"I look at the platform God has blessed Stacey and I with, and I feel like what comes with that is that He wanted us to share our blessings and impact the lives of other people the same way my life was impacted."
Established in 2012, the S.E.L.F. Foundation is dedicated to improving and impacting the lives of others through "sports, education, life skills and faith." The Porters have been involved in mentoring and coaching young student-athletes since their days at Iowa, where both were standout student-athletes.
The foundation is funding afterschool programs, which will begin next year, at three middle schools in the Houston Independent School District. Also, the foundation has made possible a bridge program, a weeklong summer program in August to help eighth-graders transition into high school.
"After sitting down with several of my friends here in town that kind of understood foundations and [tax-exempt charity] organizations, there was a need that [was] expressed to me with HISD and the afterschool programs," Porter said. "We set out to meet with the superintendent and the foundation and the people at HISD, and were able to form a partnership that will be able to provide afterschool programs for kids in underserved communities and underprivileged communities.
"It's a great marriage. It's a situation [where] we're not only going to be able to impact the young, but we're going to be able to put some programs in place that will improve the facilities at some of these communities as well."
Porter has talked repeatedly since he was hired to manage the Astros about the impact Fry has had on his life and has tried to get the legendary coach to Houston on several occasions. Porter flew to Las Vegas on Tuesday to personally escort Fry to Houston for the dinner.
"Frankly put, I didn't grow up in the greatest of communities or neighborhoods, and Coach Fry was one of the coaches that took, I guess you could say, a father-like approach of not only giving me an opportunity at the University of Iowa, but also taking a hands-on approach with my development as well," Porter said.
Porter said Dawson is one of his best friends in the game of baseball. There will be a handful of current and former Major Leaguers in attendance at the dinner, including Gary Sheffield, Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, Darren Oliver and Mark McLemore. Houston-based Astros players Jarred Cosart, Robbie Grossman, Brett Wallace, Matt Dominguez and Lucas Harrell and former Astros stars J.R. Richard, Jose Cruz, Jimmy Wynn and Bob Watson are also scheduled to attend.