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Bears virtually visit children's hospital

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When John Jenkins arrived in Chicago for his second stint with the Bears, he sought out trainer Will Rogers.

Rogers is in his ninth season as an assistant athletic trainer for the Bears. However, Jenkins' first order of business didn't have anything to do with athletic training. Instead, he wanted to know how Rogers' four-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was doing.

Jenkins played for the Bears in 2017 when Charlotte was diagnosed with leukemia at eight-months-old. The team rallied around Rogers and his wife Kristin, who also works for the Bears as a recruiting and training facilitator.

Charlotte has recovered, but the experience launched a four-year tradition of Bears players visiting the pediatric cancer ward at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. Players such as Mitchell Trubisky, Cody Whitehair, Pat O'Donnell and Patrick Scales have made the visit every year.

"It's been such an incredible experience," said Rogers, "not only for these kids, which is the most important thing, but also for the Bears players that are able to take part in it. Every year, they come back and say, 'oh my gosh, these stories.' The big thing that it all comes back to is it gives perspective."

As one of the few players who remembered Charlotte's diagnosis, Jenkins wanted to know if the hospital visit was still on. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular event would have to change.

Rogers researched how college programs had done virtual visits. He asked players on the team to record trivia questions for a game that children could play. They also scheduled time during the first Tuesday of December for dozens of Bears players to meet virtually with young patients.

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The change to a virtual setting also allowed for coach Matt Nagy to participate in this year's visit. In connecting via video conference, Nagy was able to take a few minutes to talk with patients.

"Probably the biggest thing I took from it for them was who they are and how happy they were," said Nagy. "Then again, for me, too, and for all of us, is to be thankful for what we have and understand that there are a lot of people going through different things in life and that we gotta keep things in perspective."

Rogers was touched by Nagy's decision to join in this season.

"For him to do that speaks volumes about him and his character and his willingness to take part," said Rogers.

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