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Bears players finding extra inspiration during Crucial Catch Week


When Pat O'Donnell is asked about his dad, he can't hold back his smile.

"He was an Irishman," O'Donnell said through a grin. "Six-foot-four Irish guy, played basketball, athletic … He was there at every single game, made as many games as he could."

Last year, after an 11-year fight with colon cancer, O'Donnell's father passed away.

He's one of several Bears players who has been personally affected by cancer. This week has been particularly special to many as the Bears prepare for their Crucial Catch game to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research and support.

"It's a tough deal, cancer affects a lot of different people," O'Donnell said. "Just personally being affected with my family, I found more respect for the people that actually go through it, seeing the trials and tribulations that obviously my dad had to go through."

Offensive lineman James Daniels also has watched a family member struggle with cancer. His grandmother is currently in remission after battling breast cancer for the second time.

"When she first had it I was younger, so I really didn't realize it," Daniels said. "Now realizing how dangerous it is, and how people can really die from it is kind of scary."

Daniels is proud to be a part of a team and league that are working to end the disease.

"It means a lot that the league is donating money for research, and it can help people like my grandma or anybody else's grandma or family member that are affected by cancer," Daniels said.

O'Donnell, too, believes players in the league have a special opportunity to draw attention to the cause given their reach.

"It's just the platform we need just to spread awareness," O'Donnell said. "Just showing them that other people have it and not to be discouraged."

Rookie receiver Javon Wims has also watched as someone close to him dealt with cancer. His step-mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was in college and has successfully undergone treatment since.

"It sucked because you never want to see your loved one like that," Wims said. "At the same time, the best thing is you've got to be strong for them and be very supportive."

Wims said watching his step-mom's battle inspired him.

"If she can go through that then I can go through anything," Wims said. "It made me just appreciate little things in life."

O'Donnell found that being with his football family helped him in dealing with his dad's battle.

"Football definitely takes your mind off it," O'Donnell said. "You've got 53 brothers in here that are there for you each and every day, so it's cool to have that tight knit community that we have."

Most of all, players said watching their loved ones battle with cancer helped them put their own lives in perspective.

"The little things are what matters," Wims said. "It's just one of those things that it just makes you appreciate life and the life that you have and especially makes you appreciate the time you have with your loved ones."