The 2022 season is still three months away, but Soldier Field was teeming with Bears players, coaches and fans Saturday night.
After being cancelled each of the past two years due to COVID-19, the annual Bears Care Gala returned to the United Club.
Attendees included Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, chairman George H. McCaskey, general manager Ryan Poles, assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, coach Matt Eberflus and coordinators Luke Getsy (offense), Alan Williams (defense) and Richard Hightower (special teams).
Current and former players who were on hand were Anthony Adams, Jerry Azumah, Khari Blasingame, Rashied Davis, Steve Edwards, Darrynton Evans, Gary Fencik, Justin Fields, Thomas Graham Jr., Ryan Griffin, Khalil Herbert, Teven Jenkins, Caleb Johnson, Jaylon Johnson, Cole Kmet, Zach Miller, Sam Mustipher, James O'Shaughnessy, Byron Pringle, Trevor Siemian, Mike Singletary, Khyiris Tonga and Cody Whitehair.
"I'm so happy that they're here," Mrs. McCaskey said. "I know that some of them have very personal reasons for being here and others are just joining our group. And I think the same thing is true about our Gala community, all of our new coaches."
The Gala provides continued support for promising ongoing research in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer and funding new initiatives and clinical trials, several of which focus on addressing health inequity in cancer care for women of color.
The black-tie affair kicked off with the Orange Carpet hosted by Bears reporter Lauren Screeden and Adams at the Dr Pepper Patio. A VIP party with specialty cocktails, an on-field player tunnel experience, photo opportunities and more was also held during the Orange Carpet reception. Jeff Joniak, voice of the Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 &105.9 FM, emceed the Gala and was joined by former Bears guard and current radio analyst Tom Thayer in conducting the live auction.
Through the annual Gala, Bears Care has been able to award nearly $16 million in grants to Chicago-area research efforts focused on finding a cure for breast and ovarian cancer and improving treatment options for those currently battling these diseases.
With funds generated at this year's event, Bears Care hopes to award close to $700,000 to its research partners.
Joy Piccolo O'Connell, the widow of the late Brian Piccolo, attended the Gala, along with one of their three daughters, Traci. Brian Piccolo was a running back who passed away due to embryonal cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at the age of 26 after playing four seasons with the Bears. Another one of their three daughters, Kristi, was featured in the evening's video.
Before the video, three individuals who passed away due to non-Covid causes since the Gala was last held were recognized: former Bears chairman Michael McCaskey, former running back Gale Sayers and long-time Chicago sportscaster Jeannie Morris. A book written by Morris in 1971, "Brian Piccolo: A Short Season," was given to all Gala attendees.
Bears players and coaches were at Soldier Field Saturday night to walk the orange carpet and help support cancer research at the annual Bears Care Gala.