Last November, a series of tornadoes ripped through Illinois. The situation was so serious that the Chicago Bears game against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field had to be delayed. In the end, Chicago was largely spared but surrounding communities weren’t as fortunate.
Washington, Illinois was particularly hard hit. Over one thousand homes were destroyed. With that in mind, the Bears acted. The team held a series of volunteer events and delivered a significant monetary donation to those in need. The Bears also promised the people of Washington that they would be back.
Earlier this month, the club came through on that promise. Over 100 members of the Bears organization, including about 20 players headed to Washington once again. When they arrived they were surprised by what they saw.
“We thought by now it’d be more of a rebuilding situation,” said Caroline Schrenker, Chicago Bears director of community relations. “But people are still trying to clean up.” All these months later, debris covers Washington. The town needed the Bears more than ever. The team was put to work.
“We walked down the streets, raking and clearing the area,” Schrenker told Breitbart Sports. “We gathered debris in giant contractor bags and hauled it out.”
The Bears contingent included owners George H. McCaskey, Patrick McCaskey, Brian McCaskey, and staff from new Bears partner Rust-Oleum Corporation. Rust-Oleum donated primers, paint and other supplies to help spruce things up.
The players provided a double lift for those who were affected by the wicked weather. Not only did they get their hands dirty by cleaning up but they gave the residents of Washington a morale boost. First-round draft pick Kyle Fuller was among the Bears who answered the call of duty. The defensive back was happy to do it.
“These people appreciated us being there, but honestly I think we appreciate them just as much,” Fuller said. “They have kept a positive attitude during a horrible time in their lives and that is inspiring. They watch us and support us on Sundays, we had to make sure we gave back.”
While Fuller and his teammates were offering support to Washington, the favor was returned. “People lost their homes and yet they were taking the time to wish us luck this season,” Fuller said. “We do a lot of community service but when you meet those you are helping face to face you realize how important it all really is.”
While visiting, the Bears volunteers also participated in a flag raising ceremony at the Washington Town Square. The American flag, donated by the Chicago Park District, is the same one that flew over Soldier Field during that wild and wet Bears-Ravens game last season. A Bears flag was also dedicated. Both will serve as a reminder that the Monsters of the Midway stand with Washington.
If it seems the Chicago Bears do more than their share of giving back, it’s because they do. That spirit of volunteerism starts at the top. “The McCaskeys put a premium on helping others,” Schrenker said. “Coach (Marc) Trestman preaches it. He always stresses the importance of doing good.”
It’s rubbing off on the players. “The best part is that Bears players do it because they want to, not because they have to,” said Schrenker.
Around 1,100 homes were leveled during the tornadoes. The long, arduous clean-up continues. The homeowners still have a ways to go but they do have the Bears right along side them helping remove the rubble piece by piece.
The volunteer effort was coordinated by the American Red Cross and Bethany Community Church. Many different people coming together to help their neighbors.
The Bears drafted Kyle Fuller to provide a little relief for Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, and a beleaguered defense. Clearly, Fuller is already providing some much needed relief. The kind that can’t be measured by down and distance. Fuller and the Bears are helping to rebuild lives.