The Chicago Bears this year became only the second NFL team to win the Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame Pro Team Community Award, which is presented annually to a pro sports organization for contributions to a team’s local community. The Bears became the 12th team to win the award, which is annually given to a team from the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, WNBA, MLS, or NASCAR. The Chicago Bears won this year’s humanitarian award for charitable work in education, supporting children and families, health and wellness, youth football, volunteerism, and civic initiatives.
The Bears won the award in July of 2007. Members of the Bears in 2006 made 261 appearances at schools, hospitals, health organizations, and youth agencies. Many of the visits were made on Tuesdays, the off day for NFL players.
Bears players spoke to more than 7,000 students as a part of the Bears Outreach program. The Bears helped hundreds of middle school students write encouraging letters to men and women in the military who are serving the United States overseas. The Bears also participated in the “Tales to Tackle” program, a reading incentive program that helped more than 8,600 local students.
Hundreds of children in local hospitals were cheered by the visit of Staley, the Bears mascot. More than 17,500 coats were collected to be given to deserving families through the Salvation Army. In addition, more than $650,000 was raised to support breast and ovarian cancer research.
The Chicago Bears have helped a lot of people in a lot of other ways through various charities. This year members of the team went Christmas shopping with 50 children from the Chicago Housing Authority. The children were chosen to participate based on perfect school attendance and/or being on the honor roll. Those chosen were given a $100 gift cards to use at Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Bears provided transportation and gave additional money, making the total amount each child could spend $140.
Another charity the Chicago Bears annually partner with is Special Olympics. Annually the team participates in the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby. During the event, small rubber ducks were launched into the Chicago River for a “race.” Members of the Fire Department and Marine Patrol assist in the race. People can participate by “adopting” a duck for $5. While money raised goes to the charity, those who own the top finishing ducks win prizes such as a new car, a wave runner and trailer, a vacation package in Mexico, and free shoes for a year.
Traditionally it is not only veteran players or coaches who help the Chicago Bears support their local community through various charities. Rookies participate too. Rookies have helped in various ways, including building houses for Habitat for Humanity, and teaching football skills to young people.
Over the years the Chicago Bears have won several NFL championships, and last season won the NFC championship, but some in the local community may think just as highly of the team for the way it helps others through various charities.