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Cole Kmet surprises 2024 Collin Wehr Scholarship winner


Lakes Community High School senior Sydney Friel thought she was invited to Halas Hall last Thursday to interview as a finalist for the annual Collin Wehr Scholarship.

The annual program provides financial assistance to young cancer survivors or the siblings of children who lost their battle with pediatric cancer. The scholarship honors Collin Wehr, who ended his battle with pediatric cancer in March 2013. Wehr became a member of the Bears family in 2011 when he fulfilled his his wish of being a NFL Network reporter and reporting live from Halas Hall alongside former receiver Tom Waddle.

Rather than interviewing for the scholarship, Friel was met by Bears tight end Cole Kmet, who informed her that she was already selected as this year's recipient.

"I was definitely really surprised," Friel said. "I thought I was coming in for an interview, so I was really nervous, but I was so excited. It's such a huge thing. … I'm so overwhelmed with emotions right now."

Kmet, who previously met Friel during her Make-A-Wish visit to the Bears' facility in January, felt honored to share the moment with her.

"It was really cool to surprise her," Kmet said. "It was cool seeing her from when we met her during the season to now, and just to see the surprise on her face was really awesome. I think her aspiration to now become a nurse based on her experiences is cool. Her want to give back to people that have been a similar situation she has been in is really inspiring. It's a cool life path that she's going on."


At the start of her junior year, Friel was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Going through cancer treatments herself, Friel grew passionate about nursing and will pursue that career path in college starting this fall.

"It's huge," Friel said. "I want to go back to school to either get my master's or doctorate [degree] to be a nurse practitioner. So six years of schooling is pretty expensive, especially since I am considering going out of state. So having the money is huge to be able to become a nurse and be able to achieve that."

Feeling the support of the Bears and players like Kmet through her journey has been a special feeling for Friel, who is a Lake Villa native.

"I grew up such a huge Bears fan," Friel said. "We would watch the games every Sunday. So the fact that I'm actually meeting them and they just know who I am and are supporting me throughout this, it's just really cool."

Friel was selected by an internal search committee which included Wehr's parents as well as Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. Along with being the 10th anniversary of the scholarship's inception, this year also saw the most applicants in the award's history.

"There are many exceptional candidates that are deserving of this scholarship," McCaskey said. "Sydney's story deeply reflects Collin's values, and her resilience in the face of adversity exemplifies the type of determination we aim to support through the Collin Wehr Scholarship. We believe she, along with the other candidates, will make a significant impact in their chosen fields and continue to inspire others along the way."

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