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My Cause My Cleats

Bears partner with Sneakerhead University for special My Cause My Cleats staff opportunity

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As Bears President & CEO Kevin Warren walked into one of the sneaker painting events at Halas Hall for the staff's version of the NFL's My Cause My Cleats initiative, he was "overwhelmed with emotion." Warren witnessed nearly 100 staff members designing their shoes while sharing special conversations regarding the charitable organizations they chose to support.

Warren was also moved by how the idea manifested as a result of the Bears Young Professionals Employee Resource Group. He understands the importance of supporting staff by "empowering young people to come up with transformative ideas" and is "incredibly grateful for the support from Bears chairman George H. McCaskey and the entire ownership group" that allows him to embrace creativity.

"It is my responsibility to be supportive and to encourage open ideas and thinking, and then when good and transformative ideas are brought forth, to make sure we implement them," Warren said. "So it was truly a joy and a pleasure to see this come from the staff and the excitement.

"I am a big proponent of a qualitative, competitive and fun culture. It is one thing to talk about it, but when I went upstairs and saw them designing their shoes, I said to myself, 'We are building an organizational culture in the right manner that is headed in the right direction.'"

While it's the eighth year that all NFL players have the opportunity to participate in the league's My Cause My Cleats campaign — which allows them to design and wear custom cleats that support a charitable organization of their choice — it's the first year everyone in the Bears organization was invited to participate in the initiative.

Every staff member received the opportunity to choose a cause and charity to support and customize their own pair of Nike Air Force 1's to wear for the team's Dec. 10 game against the Lions. Warren and McCaskey will join the staff in sporting their sneakers on gameday.

"Giving people the opportunity to wear their hearts on their feet at the game is something that we thought would be an awesome opportunity for everybody." Bears partnership activation specialist Dominic Hillesheim

The idea started as a way to help connect the business and football operations sides of the club and originated with the Bears' Young Professionals Employee Resource Group led by partnership activation specialist Dominic Hillesheim and events coordinator Lorena Soria.

Tasked by the Bears Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team to align with an NFL tentpole initiative, Hillesheim and Soria landed on My Cause My Cleats because of how "it aligns with pretty much everyone in the organization."

"Whether you like shoes or not, almost everyone has a cause that's near and dear to their heart that they would like to represent," Hillesheim said. "Giving people the opportunity to wear their hearts on their feet at the game is something that we thought would be an awesome opportunity for everybody.

"Being able to join in with the team on the field Dec. 10 and have this be in the office, in the stands, the suites, the concourse and everywhere around the stadium, having all these different organizations running around, we thought was a great way to align with My Cause My Cleats."

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To help staff design their shoes, the Bears hosted painting events and brought in Sneakerhead University, a Chicago-based immersive exhibit and workshop that focuses on the art, culture and history of sneakers.

Sneakerhead University's founder and owner Shay Belvin said working with the Bears has been the company's largest opportunity yet and is thankful for the club's support in helping her business evolve. 

Soria first discovered Sneakerhead on TikTok and shared it with the Bears' DEI team. When Bears manager of diversity, equity and inclusion Mallorie Sanders took a closer look at the company, she felt it aligned perfectly with the club's goal of "always finding ties to the community."

"Sneakerhead University is only here in Chicago," Sanders said. "It's in the loop, in the heart of the city. It's Black-owned and woman-owned and it's newer so it gives us a really fun opportunity to highlight this group that a lot of people might not know about. But being in Chicago where Jordans were born, for us to highlight an organization that does so much with sneakers, knowing how important that is to culture, I think that helps our brand. And it helps support a business that's doing some incredible work in Chicago."

Sneakerhead University set up workshops at both the Bears' offices in downtown Chicago and Halas Hall in Lake Forest in November and spent hours helping staff members bring their creative ideas to life.

A large part of Sneakerhead's mission is to uplift and appreciate everyone's culture, so working with such a diverse group of people, who all had unique connections to their charities of choice, was a special moment for Belvin and her team.

"When you see somebody with sneakers on, whether they're a huge fan or not, it tells you a little bit about that person," Belvin said. "I think sneakers are one of the main things on our body that no matter what tax bracket you are, everybody can relate to it. So I think that's the fun part about it.

"I love going through the customization process because no matter what, what they're creating today is a one of one and we get to see people's personalities and what's important shine true to them. It's really exciting to see how these charities manifest onto these sneakers and see the meaning that it holds to each of these people here."

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Soria and Hillsheim said the participation from the entire organization was "incredible," yet unexpected. Watching the pair's idea blossom into a way for nearly the entire organization to connect and feel united has been special.

With nearly 80 percent of the organization joining in on the initiative this season, Soria and Hillesheim are eager to see everyone's shoes at an unboxing event Dec. 6. Staff members will see their finished sneakers and have a chance to share their personal stories in connection to their organizations. The shoes can then be worn during the Dec. 10 game.

"The Young Professionals ERG is all about empowering everyone in the organization, not just the young professionals," Soria said. "So we felt like this would be the best way to empower everybody to feel like they have a voice and have an opportunity to display these causes on such a big stage."

"Overall it's awesome to see the buy-in from everybody. It's way more than we expected. It's gotten way bigger than we've ever expected so it's just been amazing."

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To ensure the meaning behind the My Cause My Cleats initiative stayed intact, Sanders and the Young Professionals ERG asked all staff participating to either donate to their organization, volunteer their time or amplify their shoes and charity on social media.

"Whenever we're able to find those opportunities where we can bring everyone together, I think that's amazing," Sanders said. "It's even more amazing when we're bringing folks together and we're giving back to the community in the same voice.

"Something that was of the upmost importance to us, was folks had to commit something. We wanted to make sure that at the same time we're giving our staff this incredible opportunity, we're also giving back to our community in the same way and supporting social justice, which is the whole point of My Cause My Cleats."

A record number of Bears players, coaches and staff sported special footwear for the team's My Cause My Cleats game Dec. 10th against the Lions. Take an exclusive look at the custom spikes, which were created to support a charitable organization of each person's choice, as well as some of the players posting with their cleats.

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