The young patients who had the chance to hang out with 26 Bears rookies Monday at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago will never forget the experience.
But you could probably say the same thing for the pro football players as well.
“This is great,” said sixth-round pick Duke Shelley, a nickel back from Kansas State. “This is probably the best thing I’ve done since I’ve been here in Chicago.
“You can see the smiles on these kids’ faces. Just being able to give back and help out any way you can, it’s always important and especially for kids in the situation they are now. It’s unfortunate for them to be in this situation. But you see them always smiling, always happy. You take one day out of your year and it means the world to them.”
The Bears players spent a few hours with about 40 kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers, playing basketball, football, air hockey, ping-pong and bean bags. Descending a flight of stairs into the hospital’s indoor activity mall, the rookies were greeted with loud cheers from the patients and their families.
“When we walked in, to see their facial reaction, it meant everything,” said seventh-round pick Kerrith Whyte Jr., a running back from Florida Atlantic. “just to see how happy they were to see us football players.”
The rookies, who wore their Bears jerseys to the event, were inspired by meeting the young patients. One of the kids, 14-year-old Tim Bannon of Hillside, was born without arms. But that doesn’t prevent him from playing video games or air hockey, remarkably, with his feet. On Monday, he kicked field goals with Shelley serving as his holder.
“Tim and I got a little workout in, so I’m a little sweaty right now,” Shelley said. “I just gravitated toward him when I saw him, just to see the kind of struggles that he has to go through on a day-to-day basis. He’s kicking the ball through the trees and using them as [goalposts] and he’s winning the Super Bowl in his mind, so it’s great.
“It’s very humbling for me. You see kids in this situation, it’s something out of their control that they can’t help. It’s always good to give back and be a light because when you’re in the position that you’re in, people look at you a certain type of way. It’s just being able to give back to them and show them that you’re just a regular person; you understand what they’re going through and you can just try to help them any kind of way that you can.”
The Chicago Bears rookie class visits a local children's hospital in Chicago to visit with patients, their families and hospital staff.