When the Bears take the field Sunday against the Giants, many will do so with a new look on their feet and a great cause on their mind.
On Tuesday, more than 25 Bears will unbox the cleats they will wear as part of the third annual "My Cause My Cleats" initiative. More than 800 players from across the league are taking advantage of the opportunity to don custom made cleats to support a cause they care about. Beginning this week, players can sport their new kicks and wear them in games through Week 16. Game-used cleats will be auctioned off with proceeds benefiting players' causes.
"I think it's great that the league gives us players an opportunity to just show what we care about," Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "We have interests. We have passions, things that speak to us, and this is a league where we can express it."
Amukamara will be representing the Bloc Foundation, an organization started by a friend that uses boxing as a tool to empower Chicago youth.
"I was an inner-city kid and I realized the use of mentorship of any type of afterschool program," Amukamara said of his choice to support the Bloc Foundation. "They're so huge for me and what made me who I am today."
The cornerback isn't the only Bears player who selected a cause to benefit youth. Center Cody Whitehair is supporting an organization his father-in-law founded to educate youth on entrepreneurship. Fullback Michael Burton will wear cleats to support the Embrace Kids Foundation, an organization he worked with in college at Rutgers that works to provide a sense of normalcy to families whose children are fighting cancer, sickle cell and other health challenges.
"I used to do hospital visits as a [college] player," Burton said. "Going on one of those visits and seeing those children and their families, you know the tough times that they go through, I wanted to see if I could help impact their lives in a positive way, and I thought no better way than to partner with Embrace Kids."
Burton is one of a dozen Bears who is focusing his efforts on raising awareness to fight a disease. Receiver Taylor Gabriel will wear cleats to raise awareness for the Lisa Colagrossi Foundation, an organization he's worked with since he entered the league that provides education and support for those suffering from brain aneurysms. Gabriel lost his mother to a brain aneurysm 12 years ago, and he hopes that he can play a small part in helping people get early detection.
Safety Adrian Amos Jr. was also inspired to choose his organization based off seeing women in his family suffer with their health. Amos' great grandmother had Alzheimer's in the latter part of her life, and Amos remembers having to help her with simple daily tasks. Now, his grandmother has Alzheimer's. His custom cleats will support the Alzheimer's Association which funds research to find a cure for the disease.
Long snapper Patrick Scales chose his organization, Colleen's Dream Foundation, to support former teammate kicker Billy Cundiff. Cundiff and his wife started the foundation after his mother-in-law passed away from ovarian cancer.
"There's no early detection for ovarian cancer," Scales explained. "So the goal of their foundation is to help spread the word and help people recognize signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer while also donating money to help fund and find an early detection cause."
Tight end Ben Braunecker knew exactly what cause he'd support when he learned of the opportunity. Braunecker, who graduated from Harvard in 2016, will be supporting the Benson M. Abercrombie ‘21 Fund. The organization is named after Ben Abercrombie who suffered a serious cervical injury during his freshman season at Harvard. The fund provides support for the Abercrombie family as well as future Harvard athletes who suffer a catastrophic injury.
"When I heard the news of what happened to Ben all the sudden I felt a lot of tough feelings for him," Braunecker said. "I think he's battled through it well, kept a positive attitude, and I just want to help him out any way that I can."
Fellow tight end Daniel Brown found the inspiration for his cause in the form of a recent four-legged addition to his family. Brown and his girlfriend adopted a dog in the spring and will support Wright-Way Rescue, a local Illinois adoption organization where they found their own dog.
Brown will work with one of two local artists that each Bears player is teaming up with to design the look for his cleats.
"It's an opportunity for people to have fun with the designs and stuff," Brown said. "But it's also an opportunity for people to bring awareness to causes that people might not know about."
While players' feet might have a new fun look on their feet running into the end zone next Sunday, the organizations and foundations their teaming up to support are the ones scoring the biggest wins.
Burton noted that the exposure goes beyond fans watching in stadiums and on television, but that the initiative has allowed him and his teammates to learn more about each other.
"I think it's really important," Burton said. "There are foundations that I didn't really know existed with guys on the team until they brought out their cleats, so it generates awareness not just for the viewers who are watching but also inside the locker room, so I think it's a great thing that the NFL allows us to do it, and I know the guys are super excited to take advantage of it, because it hits home with a lot of guys."
Here is the full list of players who will participate in the "My Cause My Cleats" initiative this season. Be on the lookout for their custom footwear when the Bears play the Giants this weekend and the Rams on December 9:
Adrian Amos (Alzheimer's Association)
Prince Amukamara (The Bloc Foundation)
Ben Braunecker (Benson M. Abercrombie '21 Fund)
Daniel Brown (Wright Way Rescue)
Michael Burton (Embrace Kids Foundation)
Trey Burton (International Justice Mission)
Deon Bush (Doby's Dream)
Leonard Floyd (Bears Care)
Kyle Fuller (SADS Foundation)
Taylor Gabriel (Lisa Colagrossi Foundation)
Eddie Goldman (YWCA)
DeAndre Houston-Carson (ORPHANetwork)
Jordan Howard (Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation)
Eddie Jackson (Safer Organization)
Charles Leno Jr. (Special Olympics Illinois)
Khalil Mack (Lupus Foundation of America)
Bobby Massie (Chicago Voyagers)
Anthony Miller (Crohn's & Colitis Foundation)
Bilal Nichols (Bears Care)
Patrick O'Donnell (The University of Chicago Medical Center)
Cody Parkey (Lutzie 43 Foundation)
Roy Robertson-Harris (Big Brothers Big Sisters)
Allen Robinson II (Within Reach Foundation)
Patrick Scales (Colleen’s Dream Foundation)
Danny Trevathan (United Way of Metropolitan Chicago-Character Playbook)
Mitchell Trubisky (Thumbs Up Mission)
Cody Whitehair (Youth Entrepreneurs)