In the fall of 1985, down in Fairbury, Illinois, Corey Schieler nailed down a perfect Sunday routine at 10 years old. After going to church with his family, Corey would race home, tear off his Sunday clothes, throw on all his Bears gear, sit on the couch beside his father and watch as John Madden and Pat Summerall called the game.
Over three decades later, Corey still remembers how palpable his anticipation was to watch Bears legends Walter Payton and Richard Dent light up the field. And through the years, his Bears fandom has only grown larger.
Now a Bears season ticket holder at age 47, Corey was honored on Nov. 6 as the team's 2022 Fan of the Year for his lifelong fandom and exemplary service in the community as a Wish Granter for Make-A-Wish Illinois.
"I was super humbled," Corey said on receiving the honor. "The Chicago Bears have been a passion and love of mine for a long time. To get recognized for the work you do in the community, that meant a lot to me. Again, very humbling. There's a lot of Bears fans that do a lot of great stuff for the community, so to just be among that group is a pretty neat thing to be a part of. But giving back is something that's always been engrained in me and it's nice to be recognized. I really appreciate it and I'm very grateful."
After putting his name in to be a season ticket holder in 2005, Corey was finally selected in 2021, achieving another lifelong dream. This season, he moved his seats to be in the same section as his cousin, Kevin, and his wife, Autumn. Corey plans to put in for more season tickets to allow additional family members to attend Bears games.
Corey's fandom stems from his father, Duane, a Vietnam veteran who instilled a love for football in him at a young age. Sharing that mutual love for the team made "being a Bears fan all about family."
Over the years, Corey has brought his father, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors and friends to games at Soldier Field. Corey said being in the stands and hearing the crowd cheer "Bear Down" or "Go Bears" alongside family has created lifelong, irreplaceable memories.
In February of 2022, Duane passed away unexpectedly, making this past year difficult for Corey and his family. But Corey's wife, Pam, believes the Fan of the Year honor is also an ode to Duane, creating an even greater moment for Corey.
"It kind of struck him emotionally," Pam said. "He lost his dad in February, and I think he just felt that emotion of his dad, because they always watched every Sunday that the Bears played football, or he would try to get his dad up to a game or two a year. So, I think a lot of that he felt like 'somehow my dad has a part in this and me getting this.'"
While Corey's love for the Bears is undeniable, he has a second passion that is arguably even stronger – granting wishes.
Corey and Pam first got involved with Make-A-Wish Illinois when they learned their 6-year-old neighbor, Cait, who suffered from brittle bone disease, wanted a mobility dog. One day, they saw Cait's family having a garage sale to help with the cost of the dog; Pam remembers Corey quickly coming up with the idea to host a neighborhood carnival to raise money for Cait's wish.
"We had our entire neighborhood come together," Corey said. "We had over 500 people in our cul-de-sac doing a carnival. We raised over $26,000 for her to get her mobility dog and also to help the organization give money to other families. Just seeing how the community really bonded and how much they felt loved, that was pretty special for me and just magic to see that all happen.
"I wanted to be a part of that with more families and just something I can do and play a small part. My wife and I don't have kids so it's just a way to give back to our community and to see the joy in little kids' faces when you get to tell them their wish is granted, there's almost no better feeling in the world."
Since helping Cait in 2009, Corey became an official Wish Granter and has made 34 wishes come true. He's even rappelled off a Chicago skyscraper to raise money for wish granting and was named the 2021 Wish Granter of the Year.
Corey said Cait's favorite quote was, "Be the change you want to see in the world," which is a message he tries to live by each day. To Pam and every family member or friend of Corey's, he never falls short of that goal.
"I'm just so proud of him because not even just with Make-A-Wish, that's just his nature is just to be caring and to try to help others," Pam said. "A lot of times it's not something he has to really think about, he just automatically does it. I'm just so proud of him for all that he does because he is unselfish in that respect of giving his time and he just gets pure joy out of out of seeing others be happy."
As the Bears' Fan of the Year, Corey received two tickets to Super Bowl LVII and an invitation to the NFL Honors event on Feb. 9. You can vote for Corey Schieler as NFL Fan of the Year until Feb. 5, 2023, by visiting NFL.com/FanOfTheYear.
"There will be an NFL Fan of the Year, so please vote for me," Corey said. "It's a pretty neat experience and hopefully to bring focus on the Chicago Bears and what everybody in the Chicagoland area does for their community to give back. It's just a nice reminder to do acts of kindness and that's one of the things I enjoy most. Just bringing a little bit of kindness to the world, just like Cait said – 'be the change you want to see in the world' – and this is my way of doing that."