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Chicago Bears receive humanitarian honors

The Chicago Bears have earned the honors of taking home the 2006 World Sports Humaniatrian Hall of Fame Pro Team Community Award. With outrageous acts of disappointments around the realm of sports that involve steroids, point-shaving and dog-fighting dominating recent headlines, good works in the business of professional sports often go unnoticed and do not get talked about much.

It’s not always the main scenario being played out and all hyped up as the Bears deserverdly were picked to be named this year’s recipient of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame Pro Team Community Award, which is presented annually to a pro sports organization “for extraordinary contributions to their respective community.” The Bears are the 12th winner of the award and just the second NFL team to be recognized for community service. Honored from a pool of applicants from organizations in Major League Baseball and the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLS and NASCAR, the Bears have implemented and supported programs in the areas of education, children and families, health and wellness, youth football, volunteerism and civic initiatives. “I think it just speaks to the fact that there are a lot of guys on the team that do stuff in the community,” said veteran left tackle John Tait. “You’ve got guys on the team with big hearts and they’re willing to help out.” During 2006, Bears players and staff members made 261 community appearances primarily at schools, hospitals, health organizations and youth agencies. Many of the appearances occurred on Tuesdays during the football season, which is the designated off day for all NFL players.

Highlights included the Bears School Outreach Program in which players spoke to over 7,000 students in 21 different Chicago Public Schools; the “Hello to Our Heroes” program which saw Bears players help hundreds of middle school students write letters to men and women of the military who are serving our country overseas; and the “Tales to Tackle” reading incentive program that reached over 8,600 students in the Chicago area. In addition, hundreds of children in Chicago area hospitals received a visit from Bears mascot Staley through the “Bears Hugs” program, the 18th annual Bears coat drive helped collect over 17,500 coats, which were donated to deserving children and families through the Salvation Army and public schools; and the 12th annual Bears Care Gala raised over $650,000 to support breast and ovarian cancer research and treatment programs. Bears Care has issued nearly $13 million in grants since its inception in 1995.

The committee that selected the Bears as the 2006 recipient of the World Sports Humanitarian award included pro athletes such as former Packers lineman Jerry Kramer and members of the media including Bob Costas, Jim Nantz, Rick Reilly and Frank DeFord. The honorary chairman of the organization is former President George H.W. Bush. “Your emphasis on programs aimed at disadvantaged youth and the ability to reach some 7,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools—all during the football season—is particularly impressive,” Myron Finkbeiner, founder of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, wrote in a letter informing the Bears of the honor. “The themes of character development, goal setting and a commitment to excellence are traits that build a strong sense of citizenship among youth and serve as a foundation for Chicago’s future community leaders.

“The Bears indeed represent all that is good in sport. The city of Chicago can be proud of your leadership to improve the lives of everyone throughout the community.” Veteran guard Roberto Garza, one of the most active members of the Bears off the field, said that the team encourages and helps players give back to the community. “From the first time I got here they were very excited about the opportunity that we had to work together and reach out to the community,” Garza said. “A lot of players on the team have their own special programs and kids they like to work with. They really encompass the whole city. Every area and part of the city has a player trying to reach out and make a difference in that community.” This is truly a great team reaching all aspects of success, working together to achieve great things on and off the field, as they continue to impress mightily, striving as an example for the entire NFL to follow, as teams and organizations aspire to become more like these “Real” CHAMPIONS and volunteer community leaders. The Chicago BEARS are roles models, covering all issues that need to be confronted, and they form a strong unit that works well coheisvely as a team that shows professionalism and class at the top of its league in every facet and department for the National Football League.

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